Character Analysis Other Characters


Uncle Willie Flittman

Willie is Evy's husband. Willie feels he is a failure, since even his horse does not respect him. He never understands that his abuse of the horse is why the horse urinates on Willie. Unlike Johnny, Willie does not drink, but he is also a dreamer who longs to escape. After Willie becomes a one-man band, he disappears from his family.


John is Sissy's third (and last) husband. His real name is Steve, although readers do not learn his name until near the end of the novel. Like Sissy's previous husbands, Steve lets Sissy do things her way, including calling him John. He eventually asserts himself, insists that he be called Steve, and demands that Sissy marry him in a church, since he knows that this is the only way she will consider their marriage real.

Sergeant Michael McShane

McShane asks Katie to marry him after the proper mourning period to honor his first wife has ended. He is a retired policeman and a successful politician. McShane is a good man and deserving of Katie's love. He married a young unmarried pregnant girl to save her and her family shame and was a faithful husband until his wife's death. He is wealthy enough that there is no doubt that Katie and her youngest child, Laurie, will not have to struggle to survive. He is also generous and offers to pay for Francie's and Neeley's college education.

Mr. McGarrity

McGarrity owns the bar where Johnny drinks. He loves Johnny, especially the way that Johnny talks to McGarrity. McGarrity is lonely; his wife and children never talk to him, but Johnny knows how to have a real conversation. McGarrity envies Johnny, who has the kind of family that McGarrity wishes he possessed. After Johnny dies, McGarrity helps Katie by giving after-school jobs to Francie and Neeley. He knows that Katie will never accept charity, but by employing Johnny's children, McGarrity tries to keep his connection to Johnny alive.

Ben Blake

Ben is the young man Francie meets on her first day at her summer college classes. He is ambitious and is a careful planner, and he also helps care for his mother. He has been taking summer college classes for three years and helps Francie study for her classes. After graduation from high school, Ben plans to attend college and law school. He loves Francie and is willing to give her the time she needs to learn to love him.

Lee Rhynor

Lee is a young soldier who is about to leave for Europe when Francie is introduced to him by a friend at work. At first, Lee seems to be genuinely sweet and caring. He convinces Francie that he loves her, and she falls in love with him. Lee tries to convince Francie to spend the night with him, but she refuses. He returns to his hometown to see his mother and, two days later, he marries his fiancée. The novel never makes clear whether he was just lonely and caught up in the romanticism of going off to war or he deliberately tried to seduce Francie to take advantage of her youth and inexperience. He breaks Francie's heart.

Annie Laurie

Laurie is Johnny and Katie's third child. When Johnny learns that Katie is pregnant for the third time, he is sad, because he knows that he cannot support another child. Laurie is born five months after Johnny dies. Her birth creates even more of an economic problem for the family, since Katie has less time to work. Laurie is named after a song Johnny used to sing. McShane will adopt Laurie after he and Katie marry and will give her his last name.

Miss Garnder

Miss Garnder is Francie's eighth-grade English teacher. She believes that Francie's writing should only be about pretty things. After her father's death, Francie begins to write about poverty, drunkenness, and death. Miss Garnder fails Francie's papers when they do not reflect the teacher's own vision about what constitutes a proper topic.

Flossie Gaddis

Flossie lives downstairs from Francie. She designs elaborate costumes to wear to masquerade parties. Flossie flirts with a man named Frank, who rejects her. Eventually, though, her persistence is rewarded when Frank asks Flossie to marry him. When Francie is a child, she watches Flossie and Frank from her fire escape.


Frank is the boy who drives the dentist's wagon, which advertises the dental office across the street from the Nolan apartment. Frank also takes care of the horse that pulls the wagon. Frank rejects Flossie's advances, but later asks her to marry him as a way to avoid the military draft, when World War I begins.

The Tynmore sisters

The Tynmore sisters live in the same building as Francie's family. Lizzie is a piano instructor, and Maggie teaches voice. They are very poor and depend on the hospitality of their students to have enough to eat.


Joanna is a young, unmarried mother who is ostracized by the community. When she is harassed and then stoned by a group of women, Francie learns that women can be especially judgmental and cruel to one another.


Lucia is a Sicilian girl who is unmarried and pregnant. Her father locks her in her room and gives her only bread and water. Sissy helps Lucia and adopts her baby.

Mr. Jenson

Jenson is the janitor at Francie's new school. He is kind to the students and, in return, they love and respect him. Jenson is better educated than a janitor usually is and has real compassion and understanding for even the poorest of children who attend Francie's school.

Doctor and Nurse

The doctor and nurse have only a brief role when they administer a vaccination that Francie and Neeley need to begin school. The doctor shows no compassion or understanding about what it means to live in poverty, and the nurse has forgotten that she grew up in the neighborhood and managed to escape the poverty of her childhood.

Maudie Donovan

Maudie is one of Francie's childhood friends. They are not close and are friends only because they are both Catholic girls living in poverty in the same neighborhood.

Hildy O'Dair

Hildy is Katie's best friend. She was Johnny's girl and introduced Katie to Johnny. She is the only person to cry at Johnny's funeral.

Thomas Rommely

Rommely is Mary's husband. He never forgave Katie for marrying Johnny, since he thought that she should work and support her father. He is a bitter, cruel man.

Ruthie Nolan

Ruthie is Johnny's mother. She is possessive of all her sons and did not want Johnny to marry Katie and leave his mother's home. At Johnny's funeral, she never speaks to his widow or her grandchildren.

Henny Gaddis

Henny is Flossie's brother. He dies of consumption.

Little Tilly and Gussie

Tilly and Gussie are children who live in the same neighborhood as the Nolan family. Johnny takes Tilly on the fishing trip with Francie and Neeley. Gussie is well-known in the neighborhood for refusing to be weaned from his mother's breast milk.

Man in the Tree Lot

The man in the tree lot throws Francie and Neeley the largest Christmas tree on his lot. He has a few moments of concern before throwing the tree, but then decides that life is hard and the children might as well know that it is a tough world.


Carnie buys the scraps of junk that the children collect and gives them a few pennies for selling to him. He pinches little girls and gives them an extra penny if they do not object.

Cheap Charlie

Charlie owns the penny candy store. He cheats the children by letting them think they can win a prize if they buy a penny ticket.

Florry Wendy

Florry is a ten-year-old girl at the end of the novel who sits on her fire escape reading a book and watching Francie get ready for her date. Florry reminds Francie of herself.

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