Barbara is a sweet, good-natured, and confident woman. At the start of the film, she is portrayed as deeply in love with her equally affable husband, Adam, and excited about they stay-at-home vacation that they have planned. While she likes their house and living in the country, she is annoyed by the pestering nosiness of their realtor Jane, who is always trying to get them to sell their house. After she and her husband die, Barbara becomes tougher and more resourceful, as she and Adam struggle to scare the Deetzes out of their house. She develops a fondness for Lydia, the Deetzes' daughter, and gives her a maternal attention that Delia cannot. Ultimately, Barbara proves unflappable and optimistic in the face of dire circumstances.
Like Barbara, Adam is kind-hearted and strong-willed. He likes to do the right thing, and has an authentic character that shines through even in tough situations. Adam relishes the opportunity to be heroic, as when he steals the car from the model town and attacks Beetlejuice to save Lydia. Throughout the film, he is frustrated by his and Barbara’s difficulty in deciphering The Handbook for the Recently Deceased. Another important feature of Adam’s character is his devotion to the model of the town that he keeps in his attic; he works on it with an ambitious dedication, seeking to represent the town. In many ways, he is an escapist, more invested in the world in miniature than reality.
At once comic, ghoulish, grotesque, dumb, and calculating, Beetlejuice is the rotten-toothed snake-oil salesman villain of the film. A self-described “bio-exorcist,” he advertizes his ability to help his fellow dead citizens, but creates more chaos than anything. Glib and fast-talking, unfurling his one-liners in a manic patter, Beetlejuice is a master manipulator, always convincing people that he is their best hope for success and survival, but turning on them in the moment of truth. He is excessively lustful, throwing himself on any woman he comes in touch with, and he carries around rats, spiders, and snakes in his pockets. He is the manifestation of the boogeyman of every child’s nightmares.
Lydia Deetz is the child of Charles and the stepdaughter of Delia. She is a goth and self-proclaimed misfit, who struggles to fit in at school and doesn’t take the transition to country life very well. At the start of the film, she carries around a camera and snaps photographs of everything she sees. Her depression and angst seem to give her a special appreciation for and ability to communicate with the dead. When the Deetzes first arrive at the house, she is the only one who can see Adam and Barbara. Her depression leads her to want to commit suicide and join the world of the dead, but Adam and Barbara dissuade her. By the end of the film, she is happy and has adjusted to living in Connecticut, reporting to two sets of parents: Charles and Delia, and the ghost couple, Adam and Barbara, who live there with them.
Juno is the Maitlands’ case worker and it is her job to help them transition from the world of the living to that of the dead. She is patient, but her patience is tried frequently by the Maitlands, who tend to break the simplest of rules in the handbook for the recently deceased. She is deeply distrustful of Beetlejuice, her former assistant, and does her best to convey this to the Maitlands, with little success. Sardonic and cranky, she is an older woman who frequently smokes cigarettes.
Otho is Delia’s interior decorator and a former supernatural professional. He is depicted as pompous, narcissistic, and loyal to his boss, Delia, who looks to him for aesthetic approval. While he is not inherently evil, he encourages Charles’ business plan of turning the town into a ghost theme park, and when he gets ahold of the handbook, threatens to irrevocably harm Barbara and Adam and breach the boundary between the living and the dead. Otho is selfish and opportunistic. He is also cowardly, running at the first sign of danger.
Delia is shallow, obnoxious, and cartoonish-ly selfish. She represents the trendiness of New York City art life, a social climber who is always striving to be hip and up on the current trends. This contributes to her outrageously ugly taste and her horrible “avant garde” sculptures. She bosses Charles around throughout the film, intimidating him into seeing things her way and using Otho’s support to get things her way. Although she and her stepdaughter Lydia do not see eye-to-eye, Delia is not simply an evil stepmother, and by the end of the film she has come around and is able to live peacefully with Adam and Barbara without exploiting them for her own benefit.
Charles Deetz is Lydia’s father and Delia’s husband. A buffoonish character, he often recoils from the wrath of Delia, and does her bidding so as to avoid conflict. While he says that he wanted to move to the country in order to relax, once he is there, he is never able to do so, and the fast pace and frenetic tempo of New York City follow him to his humble cottage. Not content to sit and read, Charles is bent on turning a profit, and delights in the prospect of turning his home (and indeed the whole town) into a spectacle of the supernatural with a hefty admission fee.
Maxie is a high-powered businessman from New York who visits the Deetzes after he hears they have a ghost.
The pesky and invasive realtor in town, who wants Adam and Barbara to sell their house. She is comically perky and pushy, and is not very good at taking no for an answer.
Beetlejuice Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Beetlejuice is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.