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KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS
The first five chapters are set in various parts of Hotel Gloriana in New York. The main character of the novel, Tommy Wilhelm, moves through the twenty-third floor, the fourteenth floor, the lobby, the mezzanine, the dining room, and the newsstand. In Chapter V, the setting shifts to Broadway and the crowded theatre of the brokerage office. Chapter VI has several locations, including a cafeteria, a market, a shop, and the stock market. Chapter VII is set in the street, a massage parlor, the lobby of Hotel Gloriana, Broadway, and a funeral parlor.
LIST OF CHARACTERS
Tommy Wilhelm - a middle aged man who exhibits neurotic symptoms. Those who are close to him - his father, his estranged wife, and Tamkin - systematically punish him. Their betrayals evoke the memories of earlier betrayals and humiliations. He is denied any successful adult accomplishment of masculine self- sufficiency and self-esteem. He is deprived of the ability to have good relations or to pursue anything real.
Dr. Adler - Wilhelm's father who lives in his tight, tidy, old man's world of money saved. His entire philosophy of life is based on stinginess. For him, to love means to spend money, which he is unwilling to do. He wants nobody on his back, including his son.
Dr. Tamkin - a pseudo-philosopher and a pseudo-psychologist. He is a shrewd charlatan who cheats Wilhelm, seizes his money, and disappears. During part of the novel, he is Wilhelm's surrogate father. Tamkin's unbelievable tales of self-glorification represent a fulfillment of Wilhelm's own unrealized fantasies
Mrs. Tamkin - the deceased wife of Dr. Tamkin who is described as an alcoholic, yet Tamkin calls her the most spiritual woman he has ever met.
Mrs. Adler - Dr. Adler's deceased wife who is remembered and spoken of by Adler and Wilhelm. Wilhelm feels that he has inherited his sensitive feelings from her. She wished that Wilhelm would study for the medical profession.
Catherine - Dr. Adler's daughter and Tommy Wilhelm's sister. She held an important position before her marriage. She is very fond of painting and seeks financial help from her father to start an art gallery.
Maurice Venice - a man who dupes Wilhelm by giving him false hopes about his chances to become an actor in Hollywood. He also organizes a ring of call girls and is later arrested.
Nita Christenberry - a beautiful model with whom Maurice Venice falls in love. She gets arrested because of her involvement with prostitution.
Mr. Perls - a resident in Hotel Gloriana and a friend of Dr. Adler.
Margaret - Wilhelm's wife who creates problems for Wilhelm by demanding money again and again. They are about to be divorced, but she does not allow the divorce to come through.
Estonian lady - a woman who is well known to Dr. Adler and many other people in the hotel. She lives with her pets and is considered eccentric.
Rubin - the man at the newsstand who does not talk much. He does, however, make certain remarks which set Wilhelm thinking about the mistakes committed by him in the past.
Margaret's mother - the deceased lady who has aggravated Wilhelm's financial problems by investing money in educational insurance policies for her grandsons (Margaret and Wilhelm's sons).
Artie - Wilhelm's cousin. He is a well-educated man who becomes a professor.
Wilhelm's sons - Paul and his elder brother. They live with their mother Margaret. Wilhelm supports them financially. He says that Margaret has turned them against him.
Scissors - Margaret and Wilhelm's dog. Wilhelm is very attached to it, but Margaret does not allow him to take it when they separate.