Joe is possibly the character we come to know best, and whose transition from passive acceptance of his poverty to strike leader is most satisfying. A working-class taxi driver and member of the union committee, his street vernacular and common-sense thinking drives the play and makes him the closest thing to a protagonist in the ensemble cast. He is much like Sid, a fellow driver, except that he has greater hope for the future despite his current poverty, thanks largely to his wife, Edna.
Fatt is the antagonist of the play, a corrupt leader in the taxi drivers' union who acts as a mouthpiece for their employer. He pretends to look out for the taxi drivers, but he tries to quell their strike and silence their protest. He also feigns ignorance, most likely, over the use of Clayton as a labor spy. Fatt relies on his gunman for protection and intimidation.
Joe's wife, Edna is the most passionate and angry character in the play. She convinces Joe to strike by pulling her own domestic strike, threatening to leave him for a man with a better income. She also speaks lines reminiscent of those from "The Communist Manifesto," develops a growing class consciousness, and urges unity above all else among the taxi drivers.
Florence's fiancé, Sid is a taxi driver who seems to have lost hope. While he and Florence role-play in Hollywood or royal fantasies, Sid cannot shake his stark reality. Unlike the other couple in the play, Joe and Edna, he and Florence have dreams but do not believe they can attain them. He feels he cannot live up to being a man in the world, and as such has developed an aggressive, almost violent attitude.
Sid's fiancée, Florence is stuck tending to her sick mother. While she deludes herself into thinking she is royalty, she has more earthbound dreams: to raise her own family with Sid. Unlike Edna, however, she does not consider possible solutions to their poverty.
Miller is an idealistic lab assistant to whom Fayette offers a high-paying job to create poisonous gas for chemical warfare. However, since his brother died in the WWI, Miller is uneasy, and the requirement that he give confidential reports to Fayette on his superior in the lab makes Miller violently refuse the offer.
Fayette is an industrialist who tries to get Miller to help him develop chemical warfare and spy on his superior in the lab. He represents the heartless, callous, almost anonymous face of big business.
An elderly doctor, Barnes is upset over the way the government controls the hospital, and in general over the way people are not allowed to work independently and efficiently. He is also angry over Dr. Benjamin's firing, and Benjamin's angry reaction seems to restore Barnes's lost idealism.
A young Jewish doctor and also a committee member of the taxi drivers' union, Benjamin is enraged over the classism and nepotism of the government. His firing from the hospital convinces him to adopt the radical ideas he had previously rejected.
An "agitator," Agate stirs up the taxi drivers in the final scene to go on strike. He not only borrows language from "The Communist Manifesto," he salutes like a Communist and tells the men that "reds" have helped him more than anyone else.
A labor spy whose brother exposes his true identity, Clayton's real name is Clancy.
Florence's brother, Irv disapproves of Sid because of his low income and wants Florence to leave him.
The gunman never speaks, but is an intimidating presence beside Fatt, looming over the men with his gun and daring them to speak against the company.
Though he never appears in the play, Lefty is an important symbol. His name marks him as a symbol for a left-wing radical, and the men seem reluctant to act until he arrives. When they learn he has been murdered, it is the last straw, and they decide to strike.
Waiting for Lefty Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Waiting for Lefty is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
"You boys know me. I ain't a red boy one bit! Here I'm carryin' a shrapnel that big I picked up in the war. And maybe I don't know it when it rains! Don't tell me red! You know what we are? The black and blue boys! We been...
I have to tell you, I'm really not sure. I pulled up all of the possible definition for this acronym, and the only one that would make any sense is AnteriorandPosterior....... which would translate the front and the back. This really doesn't...