John Cleary, a fifty-year-old coffee merchant. John is deeply disappointed with the course his life has taken. He had the opportunity, years ago, to relocate in Brazil, but his wife, Nettie, did not want to make the move. Instead, they settled in the Bronx, near Nettie’s mother. The man who took the position in Brazil became rich. Having failed to achieve the American Dream, John now turns his frustration toward others, particularly Nettie and Timmy, his son. John’s unhappiness also reveals itself in his rigidity (particularly about morality and religion) and reticence. He is unable to speak about those things that are deeply meaningful to him. He drinks to excess, though he does not approve of his son’s drunkenness. John’s long-standing estrangement from his wife has intensified during Timmy’s absence from home. Now, with Timmy’s return, he finds himself both envious of and frustrated by his son. Although he reaches tentative agreement with his son at the end of the play, his deeper problems are unresolved.
Nettie Cleary, John’s wife, a bitter, estranged woman. At the age of forty-five, she contrasts her present life with a happier past. She recalls (or imagines) her childhood at home, a world of gentility, culture, and love. She had several suitors and chose John as the most energetic and ambitious of them. He alone, she believed, would be able to give her the life she sought....
(The entire section is 513 words.)