Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 232
Rose Maurrant, the daughter of New York tenement dwellers. She is escorted home by her employer, Harry Easter, who wants to establish her in an apartment and remove her from poverty, an offer that she refuses. Sam Kaplan appears to sympathize with her family problems. Later, Rose tells his sister that she is only slightly attracted to Sam. The next morning, she returns to find that her father has killed her mother and her mother’s lover. Rejecting the proffered help of Easter and of Sam, Rose prepares to leave New York, for she feels that no person should belong to another. Perhaps later something will develop for Sam and her.
Frank Maurrant, her father, a stagehand. Although he extols family happiness and propriety, he kills his wife and her lover.
Anna Maurrant, his wife. Her husband kills her and her lover.
Harry Easter, the manager of the office in which Rose works. He tries to establish her in an apartment, but she refuses his offer as well as his proffered help after her mother’s murder.
Sam Kaplan, a law student in love with Rose. She will not accept his love, but she holds out a faint hope for the future when they are older and wiser.
Shirley Kaplan, Sam’s sister.
Abe Kaplan, Sam’s father.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1964
Daniel Buchanan is a tenant in the apartment building. He is a nervous expectant father whose wife is in labor. Buchanan has Rose call the doctor and his wife’s sister for him. In the morning at the beginning of act 2, he is the semi-proud father of a new baby girl.
Harry Easter is the office manager who is Rose Maurrant’s boss. Despite the fact that he is married, Easter is enamoured with his employee. He wants to be involved with her. Easter offers to get Rose her own apartment and start her on a new career as a stage actress. Rose turns him down, but Easter is persistent. In the morning, at the beginning of act 2, Easter shows up again, offering Rose a ride to the funeral. Again, she refuses him. At the beginning of act 3, Easter shows up at the tenement and wants to take care of Rose and her brother. Rose finally dismisses him without taking a thing. Easter finally accepts that Rose does not want him in her life at the moment, either as a friend or lover.
Filippo Fiorentino (also known as Lippo) is the husband of Greta Fiorentino. He is an Italian immigrant. Mr. Fiorentino makes his living as an accordion player and musician. He belongs to the musician’s union. Mr. Fiorentino is generous with his money. On this hot day, he brings home several ice cream cones for his neighbors and gives money to Mrs. Hildebrand and her children when Alice Simpson, the charity worker, is critical of their going to the movies. He also plays music for his neighbors and dances with Mrs. Maurrant. While Mr. Fiorentino is a lively, happy man, he also is a bit callous towards the feelings of others. He chides his wife for not yet having children, when the subject is touchy for her. He does the same thing to others who live in the tenement, but his happy-go-lucky demeanor makes up for it to some degree.
Greta Fiorentino is the rather large, loving wife of Filippo Fiorentino. She is a German immigrant and a musician. She makes her living giving children music lessons in her tenement apartment. Mrs. Fiorentino is frustrated by the fact that she has not been able to have children of her own. She gets slightly annoyed by her husband’s generosity and his callousness towards her over her barrenness. She is one of the women who spends much time gossiping on the stoop of the tenement but is generally kind.
Charlie is the child of Laura Hildebrand. He and his sister Mary are about to lose their apartment because of their destitute state. Still, they go to school in the morning at the beginning of act 2. They do not seem to be particularly affected by their imminent eviction.
Laura Hildebrand is the mother of Mary and Charlie Hildebrand. She has been abandoned by her husband and is destitute. Her family is about to be evicted from the building. Though Mrs. Hildebrand is about to lose her place to live, she tries to keep her children’s lives as normal as possible. She takes them to the movies as they did every Thursday night. When Miss Simpson admonishes her for such actions, Mrs. Hildebrand meekly agrees because she has no choice.
Mary is the child of Laura Hildebrand and the sister of Charlie. She and Charlie share an apartment, which they are going to be evicted from.
Emma Jones is the middle-aged wife of George and the mother of Mae and Vincent. She also has a dog, Queenie, whom she takes on walks regularly. She is one of the more gossipy tenants in the apartment building, fond of judging the others, especially those who are immigrants. Mrs. Jones is also critical of Willie and Rose but does not see the problems with her own children.
George is the husband of Emma Jones, and father of Mae and Vincent. Like his wife, George is a gossip and very judgmental of those who are not like himself. He is critical of foreigners, though not as much as his wife.
Mae Jones, about twenty-one years old, is the daughter of George and Emma Jones and the sister of Vincent. She is not a ‘‘nice girl’’ but stays out all night with her boyfriend, Dick McGann. She works in a shop.
Vincent Jones is the son of George and Emma Jones and brother of Mae. He is a young adult and works as a taxicab driver. He is a large man, and likes to throw his weight around. Vincent is attracted to Rose and tries to get her to go out with him. When she refuses him, Sam tries to step in to get Vincent to leave her alone. Vincent pushes Sam aside. Like his parents, Vincent is not very tolerant of those who are different than him.
Abraham Kaplan is the old Jewish man who lives in the tenement apartment building with his daughter Shirley and son Sam. Kaplan is unpopular with most of his neighbors for several reasons, including his religion. Kaplan also spouts off his radical political and economic beliefs on a regular basis. He is critical of the capitalist economic system, preferring instead socialism. Kaplan generally means well, but his demeanor rubs most the wrong way.
Sam Kaplan is the younger brother of Shirley Kaplan and son of Abraham Kaplan. He is a university student who is studying law and considered quite bright. Sam is fond of poetry, music, and, especially, Rose Maurrant. Sam is ready to abandon his father and sister and go anywhere with Rose. He tells her he loves her and intercedes when men like Vincent Jones try to take advantage of her. While Rose is fond of Sam, she ultimately rejects him, for both his own good and hers. Sam is essentially under his sister’s thumb but has a promising future.
Shirley Kaplan is Abraham Kaplan’s eldest child and primary caretaker. The unmarried woman works as a teacher to support her elderly father and to put her younger brother through law school. Like her father, Shirley is unpopular among the tenants of the tenement for her brusque ways and religion. Shirley is primarily concerned with her family, making sure her father and brother’s needs are met. To this end, she tells Rose Maurrant to stay away from her brother Sam because he is their future breadwinner. Shirley does have a sympathetic side. When Rose has to go back into her apartment after her father murdered her mother and her mother’s lover, Shirley accompanies her for support.
See Filippo Fiorentino
Anna Maurrant is the wife of Frank and mother of Rose and Willie. Mrs. Maurrant is unhappy in her marriage to Frank and is having an affair with the milk company’s collector, Steve Sankey. This liaison provides much of the fodder for the tenement gossips. It also distracts Anna from the care of her son Willie. Though Rose Maurrant tries to dissuade her mother from being so obvious about the affair, it does no good. At the end of act 2, Mr. Maurrant finds Sankey and his wife together, and he shoots both of them. Mrs. Maurrant later dies from the gunshot wounds.
Frank Maurrant is the husband of Anna, and father of Rose and Willie. He works as a stagehand and is in the stagehands’ union. Mr. Maurrant is a rather hard man to his wife and children. He does not approve of Rose’s life choices and suspects something might be going on with his wife. Because of this situation, he is also the subject of much of the tenement’s gossip. When Mr. Maurrant comes home unexpectedly at the end of act 2, he catches his wife together with Steve Sankey, the milk company collector. He shoots them, killing Sankey instantly while his wife dies later. After the shootings, he hides out in a nearby furnace room. The police catch him, and he is taken to prison. At the end of the play, it is implied that Mr. Maurrant will be put to death for his crime.
Rose Maurrant is the twenty-year-old daughter of Frank and Anna Maurrant and older sister of Willie. She is a young woman who works in a real estate office and has many male admirers. They include her office manager, Harry Easter, who wants to set her up in an apartment of her own and get her started on a career in show business. Rose rejects all of his insistent advances. Vincent Jones also tries to get Rose to stay out all night with him, but she refuses him as well. Rose’s most sincere suitor is Sam Kaplan. Kaplan pledges his love to her. While Rose connects with Sam in some ways, she also knows that he has a better future without her and that she has problems of her own. Rose tries to please her father, while influencing her mother’s choices with Sankey. Rose’s actions cannot change the outcome of the story, but at the end of the play, she is determined to make sure Willie has a better life in a better place. Rose is kind to many of her neighbors, including Mr. Buchanan.
Willie Maurrant is the ten-year-old son of Frank and Anna Maurrant and younger brother of Rose. His mother cannot particularly control him. He runs rather freely on the streets, much to the chagrin of his father and sister. Willie is more interested in ice cream and being with his friends than being neat and tidy and hanging around at home. Rose tries to protect Willie as much as possible and keeps him in mind when she makes decisions.
Dick McGann is Mae Jones’ boyfriend. They stay out all night together at the end of act 1.
Carl Olsen is the husband of Olga Olsen and father of an infant child. Like his wife, he is an immigrant from Scandinavia. He lives in the basement apartment and is the building’s janitor and maintenance man. Olsen is not above gossiping but is not particularly malicious. He helps the other tenants when he can. For example, at the end of the play when Rose wants to put up black crepe as a symbol of death, Olsen completes the task for her.
Olga Olsen is the wife of Carl Olsen and has an infant child. She is an immigrant from Scandinavia and lives in the basement apartment. She helps her husband with his janitorial duties in the building. Mrs. Olsen is one of the tenants who enjoys gossiping about her neighbors, though she is not as judgmental as some of the others. Mrs. Olsen helps others when needed.
Steve Sankey is the milk company collector who is having an affair with Mrs. Maurrant. Sankey is married and has two children. His rather open affair leads to his murder by Mrs. Maurrant’s jealous husband.
Alice Simpson works for the charities and comes to the tenement to help Laura Hildebrand and her children. She is a spinster and rather cold and dismissive of the tenement’s residents. Miss Simpson is especially hard towards Mrs. Hildebrand because she has taken her children to the movies, despite the fact that they are about to be evicted from their apartment. Still, she makes sure the Hildebrands have a place to go after their eviction.
Dr. John Wilson
Dr. John Wilson is the doctor who comes to the tenement to deliver Mrs. Buchanan’s baby.