Cliff Dawson, an unemployed former Navy man who spent much of his Navy career in the brig. Cliff loves his wife and cares deeply for his nephew; unfortunately, he has few other admirable qualities. Though only in his twenties, Cliff largely has resigned himself to an unpromising life made tolerable through the numbing effects of alcohol. Boastful of his sexual prowess, he is a philanderer who physically abuses his wife and taunts her with his vulgar language. He has been unable to complete his collegiate studies, which were intended to improve his position, or to hold a job for longer than six months. Feeling unable to change the course of his own life, Cliff becomes preoccupied with the future of his nephew, who he believes has a chance of escaping the bleak fate of the inner city by joining the Navy.
Lou Dawson, Cliff’s wife, who is in an early stage of pregnancy. She is a twenty-two-year-old black woman who spends her evenings under the influence of alcohol. Although admired by Cliff as a woman of integrity, she lacks concern for her own well-being. She criticizes her husband’s abhorrent behavior, yet she realizes that he will not change his ways, and her love for Cliff will not allow any thought of leaving him. Her nephew also receives much of her attention and affection; he has been her ward since his mother (Lou’s sister) died of alcohol-related causes. She adamantly opposes her...
(The entire section is 587 words.)