Mrs. Conway, a widow living in a provincial town. She is in her mid-forties at the start of the play and is well dressed, talkative, and very conscious of her status in local society. She is at her best at parties and other social gatherings; she has little practical knowledge or talent. Her behavior as a mother is a central concern in the play. The promising lives of her children are shown to be wasted, and she herself faces financial ruin at the end of the play.
Alan Conway, the eldest son, a clerk. Rather shy and silent, he is in his early twenties as the play begins. He stammers and dresses shabbily. Initially, he seems a failure in contrast to the other characters. His sense of futility finally extends to the rest of the family. He is truly good-natured and is the person closest to Kay. It is Alan who elaborates for Kay the theory of time at the heart of the play.
Madge Conway, the eldest sister. She is a well-educated and efficient woman, busy with plans for social and political reform. She is the least attractive of the sisters but has a romantic interest in Gerald Thornton early in the play, an interest that might be returned. A possible union with Thornton is thwarted by her mother, who treats her ideas with scorn. Madge ultimately becomes the hostile, defensive headmistress of a girls’ school.
Robin Conway, the younger son, his mother’s favorite and a loafer with no apparent talent. Robin is returning from World War I as the play begins. He is charming and good-looking and spends much of his time pursuing Joan Helford, to whom he is married and whom he subsequently abandons. He manipulates his mother, who gives him money, but he proves unable to help her when she faces financial difficulties.
(The entire section is 770 words.)