Author: Lillian Hellman
First published: 1941
Locale: Near Washington, D.C.
Fanny Farrelly, the head of a distinguished Washington family. She eagerly awaits the return of her daughter, Sara, who has spent many years abroad with her German husband, rearing a family and helping him in his anti-Fascist efforts. Fanny disapproved of the marriage but is now eager to make amends. She is out of touch with what has been happening in Europe, but she responds well to Kurt's explanation of his activities on behalf of the men and women who have opposed Adolf Hitler. Fanny is so moved by Kurt's humane efforts on behalf of his fellow human beings that she conspires with him in the murder of Teck de Brancovis, who plans to inform on Kurt to the German embassy.
David Farrelly, Fanny's good-looking son, who has struggled under the shadow of a famous father. David falls in love with Marthe de Brancovis and helps Kurt survive Teck's scheme against him.
Marthe de Brancovis, Teck's attractive wife, an American who has tired of her husband's gambling and his generally dissolute life. She is a guest in Fanny's home and falls in love with her son David.
Teck de Brancovis, a Romanian nobleman who gambles away his funds and decides to turn in Kurt Muller to the German embassy, which is sure to pay Teck for his efforts. Teck is suave but contemptuous of Americans, including his hostess, Fanny.
Kurt Muller, Sara's husband and the play's hero, a vulnerable man. His hands have been broken in torture, and he dreads returning to Europe, even though he knows that he must leave to rescue his compatriots who are in jail or are facing imminent extermination by the Nazis. Kurt is eloquent yet modest about his role in history. He impresses Fanny with his sincerity and determination and is instrumental in arousing her awareness of the threat to civilization that Fascism poses.
Sara Muller, Kurt's dedicated wife, who has had to brook her mother's displeasure over her marriage. She wins Fanny over, however, with her dedication to Kurt and her family. Sara, in fact, articulates many of the emotions and opinions that Kurt keeps to himself. In this sense, she is his interpreter, saying in her own words what it has meant to follow him and to dedicate herself to his cause.
Bodo Muller, Kurt and Sara's precocious child. Like Sara, he often expresses in blunt fashion opinions about freedom and democracy that Kurt only implies in his manner and halting speech. Bodo injects some humor into the play with his youthful sense of importance.
Babette Muller, the middle child in the Muller family. She is much like her mother, supporting the family's political commitment and feeling a solidarity with her father.
Joshua Muller, Kurt's son. As the oldest child in the family, he feels a special responsibility for carrying on his father's mission.