This Is Our Youth Characters
by Kenneth Lonergan

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This Is Our Youth Characters

(Drama for Students)

Jessica Goldman

Nineteen-year-old Jessica Goldman is a "cheerful but very nervous girl" who displays "a watchful defensiveness that sweeps away anything that might threaten to dislodge her, including her own chances at happiness and the opportunity of gaining a wider perspective on the world." She uses this defensiveness to help her project her own image of herself as a hip, intelligent, independent young woman who cannot be taken advantage of, yet her actions suggest that she is not as self-assured as she appears.

On first meeting Warren, Jessica tries to convince him that she is in control, when she insists that she will not let others play matchmaker for her. But her defensiveness immediately becomes apparent when she does not recognize that Warren is teasing her about his sexual intentions. She ironically reveals her own fragile sense of self when she tells Warren, "Like right now you're all like this rich little pot-smoking burnout rebel, but ten years from now you're gonna be like a plastic surgeon reminiscing about how wild you used to be." Jessica's vision of their futures as successful doctors or fashion designers suggests that she will follow the same path as their parents, proving that she does not recognize the meaninglessness and moral vacuity of their lives. She insists that this inevitable transition "just basically invalidates whoever you are right now." "So," she says, "it's like, what is the point?" This view also provides her with easy excuses for her present behavior, such as trying to persuade Warren to give her his most prized possession, a vintage baseball cap given to him by his grandfather.

Jessica reveals her shallowness in her obvious attraction to Dennis and his famous father and beautiful mother and in her excitement when Warren suggests that they get a penthouse room at the Plaza Hotel. The most blatant example of this quality emerges after she becomes worried about telling Dennis's girlfriend, Valerie, that she and Warren did not sleep together, after Warren told Dennis that they had. Even when Warren insists that he talked about her with a great deal of respect, she still needs him to validate her worth by asking him to give up his most important possession. She clearly shows no concern for how valuable the baseball cap is to Warren and how difficult it would be for him to give it away. Her only concern is proving her own merit, through Warren's offer of a treasured possession.

Warren Straub

Warren is "a strange barking-dog of a kid" who finds himself in a great deal of trouble at the beginning of the play. After he steals his father's money, he turns to the only person he can; unfortunately, that is Dennis, who continually makes him feel like a loser. Although that description fits Warren in many respects, he has more thoughtfulness and "a dogged self-possession" that gives him more authenticity than his friends exhibit.

Unlike his friends, Warren understands that he is wasting his time in New York. He reveals his desire to move on when he talks about the pleasure of being out west in the mountains, in contrast to what he considers the trash heap of the city. He notes that he is not getting any intellectual stimulation and that all he is doing is getting high, which he can do anywhere.

Warren is also more able to express his vulnerability and his sense of loss, especially concerning the death of his sister. Although he is reluctant to talk about her, he admits that he is dealing with her death by keeping pictures of her in his room. He later tells his father that he thinks about her "all the time" and sees her in his imagination. Warren's compassionate nature emerges when he recognizes how much his father has also suffered. Even though his father has physically and mentally abused him, Warren shows sympathy for the fact that he is "totally by himself." He also exhibits compassion for Dennis, even though he recognizes how self-involved his friend is. When Dennis practically begs Warren to reassure him...

(The entire section is 1,267 words.)