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him, and her sorrow when he passes, are laced with resentment and confusion at the direction her own life has now taken.

The contrast between the sisters Catherine and Claire is another example of family conflict. Claire, who wants to take Catherine back to New York with her, believes that her sister may be mentally ill. Its an ironic touch; Catherine is the sister who stayed at home to care for their ailing father, and yet Claire is attempting to step into the caretaker role at this late date with her suspicions about Catherines mental health. The balance of power between the two sisters is a delicate one, and we are witnessing their interaction at a volatile time in their lives. One senses, however, that the sisters are more alike than they realize; both of them are attempting to confront feelings they have long neglected, albeit in very different ways.

Information for this section was compiled from the following sources: http://www.complete-review.com/reviews/usplays/auburnd1.htm http://www.delawareonline.com/article/20081021/LIFE/810210302 http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0377107/ http://www.pbs.org/newshour/bb/media/jan-june01/auburn_04-20.html

Character Analysis


Catherine is 25 years old. She gave up college to care for her father during his mental illness, and after his death, she is left in a sort of limbo where she is not prepared to deal with the world outside. She has a certain social awkwardness and tends to be gruff, short, and sarcastic, although not mean spirited; one senses that her discomfort in dealing with others drives her to say many things she would not otherwise say. It is clear that she has not interacted with the world much over the past nine years.

Catherines life, however, has not been solely devoted to her father. She has been keeping herself mentally active over the years by studying mathematics in her free time, and this has drawn her closer to her father as well as increased the fear of those around her that she may suffer from his same mental illness as he did. Her brilliance in mathematics is a pleasure for Catherine. This is why it is all the more striking to her when Hal questions the authorship of the proof. Catherines interactions with Hal are particularly complex because, in spite of herself, Catherine opens up emotionally to Hal. She is therefore especially vulnerable to him.

Catherine is not unlikable, in spite of her lack of social graces; in fact, she is written as quirky and extremely endearing. Her sense of humor and novel behavior traits walk the line between funny and heartbreaking.


Claire is Catherines sister, who has arrived from New York upon the death of Robert. Breezy and business-like, Claire may be hiding many of the same lost, confused feelings her sister Catherine is experiencing, but its difficult to tell. Claire has a good job in New York and has been paying her fathers health care bills. One of the major conflicts between her and Catherine is the fact that Claire believes Robert should have been put into an institution, which Catherine was strongly set against.


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