The narrator is essentially Miller himself, chronicling his experiences in New York and Paris. He is voluble, creative, contemplative, individualistic, and darkly funny. He is an acute observer but not a disinterested one, often weaving what he sees into his own experiences and memories. He is often misogynistic and racist, obsessed with sex and possessive of a cruel, arrogant streak. He has problems with his father and with his home country, which is why he moves to Paris.
Tante Melia is Miller's aunt. She became more and more mentally disturbed after her husband left her and then died. Miller, at the behest of the whole family, took her to the insane asylum where she was committed. He saw her as half crazy and half a saint, and felt that perhaps she was too pure for the cruel world.
The Bendix Brothers
H.W., Albert, and R.N. Bendix are three brothers in the neighborhood in Brooklyn who frequent the Miller family tailor shop. They despise each other to such a degree that no single one ever refers to the other two in the presence of other people. H.W. is described as the “grumpy one,” while Albert is the most likable. Meanwhile, R.N. has never actually been seen because both his legs were amputated and so he never actually comes to the shop.
Portly, aloof, disdainful, and mustachioed, Moffatt is the old man's only enemy. He owns the bar that the old man frequents and comes to the tailor shop often but never pays his bills. The old man then racks up debt in meals at the bar, and the two carry this on for many years.
The minister’s son and black sheep of his family, he was an affable good-for-nothing before the war, but became a soldier with medals after the war. He is intent on living life as a drunken spree until committing suicide by taking a long walk on a short pier one night.
The Old Man (Miller's Father)
The owner of a tailor shop, Miller's father is excessively fond of drink and is somewhat curmudgeonly. Miller envies and dislikes him a lot of time, but sympathizes with the burdens of the man's profession. The old man is very social and has a large coterie of interesting friends, though most die before their time.
Miller describes his mother as being wont to whining and complaining. He says she makes being at home tedious for him.
A charming and obsequious man who works at the hotel opening doors for visitors. He eventually becomes religious but Miller likes him a great deal.
Julian Legree is a matinee idol and friend of the old man's. Miller admires his remarkable voice. He hails from Manhattan.
Another matinee star who is a friend of the old man, he hails from Brooklyn.
Paul Dexter is a friendly and likable man from Indiana who never quite has enough money but always has big dreams. He is well-liked by all but hard to please; Miller tries assiduously to cultivate his favor. He is cheerful but prone to serious bouts of depression and often disappears for days at a time. When he returns, he is contrite and speaks volubly of all manner of subject. Though essentially a failure, the people in the neighborhood find him endearing. He dies of heart failure in a foot of water at the shore.
The Baron Carola von Eschenbach
The Baron Carola von Eschenbach is a man who made a bit of money in Hollywood acting like the Crown Prince. He moved to Brooklyn and was esteemed by the old man for being a baron (though he'd created that name for himself). He liked the cronies in front of the tailor shop but privately told Miller he was unhappy and needed money. He eventually contracted syphilis and dies.
Miller depicts her as a dramatic woman prone to crying fits to garner sympathy, excessive selfishness, and complaining.
Patsy O'Dowd is one of the three Irish bartenders at one of the bars the old man likes to visit. He is an explosive man who insults his customers, but they esteem him and actually crave the insults.
A neighborhood man and close friend of the old man, he is friendly and large but often seems indolent and sleepy. He shuffles along very slowly in the streets but has a kind smile for people.
“The morgue” to Miller, he is missing an arm and often haunts the morgue to get clothes from dead people. His wife apparently slept with her brother and neglected George so he became crazy.
Jabberwhorl Cronstadt (“Jab”)
An eccentric man whom Miller visits one day, he has numerous interests and is vibrant and voluble. He speaks of real estate and poetry and his memories.
Dschilly Zilah Bey
Dschilly Zilah Bey is Miller's companion when he visits Jabberwhorl.
Katya, Anna, and Elsa
They are three foreign women who work for Jab and Jill. Jab considers them relatively useless.
Jab and Jill's young daughter, she asks numerous existential questions of her father before going to bed.
Jill is Jabberwhorl's long-suffering and solicitous wife. Jab indicates that she is pregnant.
They are a married couple who have a tempestuous relationship—he wants more sex, she wants more money. They eventually make this transactional, but he grows irate and cruelly punishes her when he finds out she is sleeping with other men as well.
Black Spring Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Black Spring is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.