Ruth, a young woman seeking a romantic commitment from her reluctant lover. Spending a weekend at a cabin with Nick, trying to escape the pressures of the city, their jobs, and their obviously deteriorating relationship, she speaks incessantly in fragmented sentences and incomplete narratives. Fear of abandonment, loss, and decay are the central themes running through her conversation. What emerges is the gradual revelation of her psychological state: She is having problems controlling her rising hysteria and her need to make contact. After Nick’s attack on her, she is able to withdraw emotionally from him and offer him a kind of a sexual nurturing for his childlike need.
Nick, an intensely troubled young man. For much of the play, he speaks very little, in contrast to Ruth and her flood of language. His few comments contain the themes of fear of entrapment, fear of death, and fear of meaninglessness. When he feels the need to break through Ruth’s romantic imaginings, he explodes and attacks her physically and sexually. When the assault fails and Ruth acknowledges the impossibility of her desires for a warm, committed relationship, Nick becomes increasingly vulnerable, frightened, and willing to express his emotional neediness. At the end, he comes to her arms as a child, and they cling to each other out of necessity, united by their mutual fears.