Brighton Beach Memoirs is the story of one family's struggle to survive in the pre-World War II age of the "Great Depression". This was a time of great hardship where pain and suffering were eminent. In this play, Neil Simon gives us a painfully realistic view of life during the late 1930s.
The setting takes place in Brighton Beach, Brooklyn, New York, in the fall of 1937. It is a lower-income area inhabited by mostly Jews, Irish, and Germans. The house is described as a wooden-framed, 2 floor, establishment near the beach.
The main character and narrator is Eugene Jerome. Eugene is a 15-year-old boy who is in the midst of going through puberty. Like Rusty-James in Rumble Fish, Eugene looks up to his older brother Stanley. His hobbies and hopes include playing baseball in hopes of becoming a New York Yankee, writing, and to see the "Golden Palace of the Himalayas", which in other words is seeing a naked woman. Eugene always feels as if he is being blamed for everything that goes wrong. He finds liberation from a household of seven by writing in his diary, which he calls his memoirs.
Stanley is Eugene's 18-year-old, older brother. Stanley can be described as a person who stands up for his principles. Eugene is constantly looking to him for advice with his pubescent "problems". Stanley had to work young to support the family. We later see him losing his paycheck from gambling and almost joining the army.
Kate and Jack Jerome are Eugene's parents. They are constantly looking to Eugene for things to be done. They have it very hard supporting their own family and her sister Blanche's family. Jack had to take up many jobs to support everybody, which resulted in a heart attack. We later see Jacks relatives escaping from the Nazi occupation in Poland to come and live with him.
Blanche is Eugene's aunt and Kate's sister. When Blanche's husband David died, she found she could not support her family. Kate and Jack agreed to take her and her two daughters, Nora and Laurie, in and support them. We see that Blanche has many problems of being independent. Her daughters, Nora and Laurie, have their own share of problems.