Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Memphis Lee

Memphis Lee, whose restaurant forms the play’s only set and who has struggled to build a life in Pittsburgh after whites forced him off his Jackson, Mississippi, farm in 1931. Intelligent and determined, he has fought a valiant, if unsuccessful, battle to maintain his establishment amid grinding poverty and urban decay. Although his marriage of twenty-two years has foundered and his restaurant faces the wrecking ball, he still yearns for the financial success that would enable him to reclaim his farm. The sale of his restaurant at the play’s end makes the fulfillment of his wish at least possible.


Wolf, one of Memphis’ customers, a numbers runner. He is a roving peddler of dreams; his illegal trade allows a few fortunate winners to purchase coveted material goods. Although he relishes the reputation his occupation fosters, he is disappointed in love: His relationships with women are limited to brief physical encounters. His interest in Risa never develops into anything substantial.

Risa (Clarissa) Thomas

Risa (Clarissa) Thomas, Memphis’ lethargic employee, who is mentally stable despite having disfigured her shapely legs. She has scarred them so that she can build a relationship on more than a physical basis. Like Sterling, with whom she falls in love, she recognizes Hambone’s value and tries to befriend him.



(The entire section is 483 words.)