Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 664


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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.


Nick, the owner of the bar in which most of the action takes place. He is bemused by the actions of most of his patrons but accepts their antics with good nature, although he halfheartedly complains from time to time that he does not understand what is occurring.

Mary L.

Mary L., a woman who comes into the bar and with whom Joe strikes up a slightly drunken conversation when he notices the initials “M. L.” on her bag. They realize that they may have fallen in love with each other, but Mary walks out of the bar and does not return.


Harry, a young song and dance man who tries (in vain) to entertain the customers with his comedic monologues.


Wesley, a young black man who plays the piano as entertainment for Nick’s customers.


Blick, a vice cop in his mid-forties. He harasses the patrons and provides the conflict in the play when he tries to make Kitty perform the burlesque routine that she did before she drifted into prostitution. Nick throws Blick out of the bar, and he is killed in the street.


McCarthy, a good-natured longshoreman who is on the side of ordinary people in spite of the mess made of the world. He tries to convince Krupp that he is in the wrong line of work.


Krupp, his friend, a slightly dim-witted policeman in his late thirties who is growing tired of his job and is unable to understand why people keep making what is basically a pleasant world worse.

Dudley R. Bostwick

Dudley R. Bostwick, a young man who continually uses the telephone in the bar to contact a girl. Any girl will do, but the one with whom he is in love would be best.


Willie, a young man who plays the pinball machine in the bar, sometimes with spectacular results.

Kit Carson

Kit Carson, an old-time cowboy who tells tall tales of his wild adventures fighting Indians. These tales seem to be lies until he shoots and kills Blick offstage near the end of the play.

The Arab

The Arab, who sits at the bar and mutters the recurring line, “No foundation. All the way down the line.”


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Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1757

Throughout the play, the Arab sits at the bar in Nick’s saloon responding to the newspaper headlines with the comment, ‘‘No foundation. All the way down...

(The entire section contains 2421 words.)

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Critical Essays