Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Joe, a young man with money, the initiator of most of the action of the play. He sits at a table in Nick’s bar, near the waterfront in San Francisco, observing and commenting on the activities in the bar and trying to help some of the patrons, particularly Kitty Duval and Mary L. He directs his young flunkey, Tom, to run errands for him. When he sees that Tom is falling in love with Kitty, he does everything he can to promote the love affair, including renting a car and taking a romantic drive with the two lovers down the Pacific coast and then installing Kitty in a room at a fancy hotel. Joe gets Tom a job driving a truck and at the end of the play sends the two lovers away to get married. Joe also helps to defend Kitty when Blick, the vice cop, tries to arrest her. Joe states the philosophy that gives the play its title, his belief that one should live so that the time of one’s life is not wasted in game-playing, frantic pursuit of money and prestige, or regrets.


Tom, Joe’s younger friend, who idolizes Joe and does everything that Joe asks him to do. He is sometimes mystified by his tasks, such as bringing Joe on one occasion a collection of toys and on another a gun. He falls in love with Kitty, and their blossoming romance is the main plot device of the play.

Kitty Duval

Kitty Duval, a prostitute who wanders into the bar, angry at herself and the world because of her circumstances and occupation. She is revived by Joe, who reminds her that she once had dreams and still is capable of hope.



(The entire section is 664 words.)