The play's antagonist. Yank works as a Fireman on a Transatlantic Ocean Liner. The play follows his quest to find a sense of belonging in modern, industrial society. Yank, whose real name is Bob Smith, was born in New York City and was brought up in a lower class family. Yank is a burly, sometimes menacing figure who has difficulty with thought. He is known to take the physical position of Rodin's "The Thinker" when processing information or dealing with a problem.

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Mildred Douglas

The frail, impetuous twenty-year-old daughter of the owner of Nazareth Steel. Mildred has enjoyed the advantage of all of life's monetary privileges and has no real knowledge of work or hardship. In an attempt to understand the poorer classes she does service project and studied sociology in college. Mildred's reaction to Yank causes his class awareness.

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An old and wise Irishman who works with Yank as a fireman aboard the Ocean Liner. Paddy, known for drunkenness, thinks the firemen are forced to do slave labor. Paddy reminisces about his days working on a Clipper ship where men were free.

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Mildred's Aunt

A stuffy, fat, middle-aged aristocratic woman who is intensely critical of Mildred's involvement in social work. Mildred's Aunt has no taste for "deformity" and thinks Mildred makes the poor only feel poorer with her presence.


A fireman aboard the Ocean Liner who preaches Marxism. Long takes Yank to New York City to prove to Yank that all members of the upper class are the same.

The Secretary

Works at the I.W.W. office in New York City. He comes to believe that Yank works for the government and throws him out on the street.


A member of the upper class. He calls the police because Yank causes him to miss a bus.

Second Engineer

Escorts Mildred Douglas into the stokehole of the Ocean Liner. The Second Engineer warns Mildred that her white dress be ruined, but she ignores him.

The Guard

Works at the prison where Yank is held after causing the Gentleman to miss his bus. The Guard shoots water at Yank when he bends the bars of his cell back.