The most important characters in the short story “The Penis” by Hanif Kureishi are Alfie and Doug. The personified penis, named “Long Dong”, also functions as a character in the short story because it is personified, so we will analyse it as well.
Alfie is the first character whose perspective the narrator uses. The first part of the narration is focused on him, but he also appears briefly in the second part when he meets Doug.
According to Alfie’s outer characterisation, he is “a cutter—a hairdresser” and he married his wife a year earlier in Las Vegas. We also find out that—according to his wife—Alfie’s penis is smaller than that of Doug.
From Alfie’s inner characterisation, we find out that he is a man who parties, does drugs and watches porn, but we also realise that these aspects are not necessarily considered bad by the society depicted in the short story: “ ‘There was a club and a lot of people. Later there was a porn film.’ ”; “He would examine his wallet and see how much money he had spent, whether he had any cocaine left…”
The fact that Alfie did not like the porn movie he had seen and compares it to a “butcher’s shop” suggests that he might be more conventional in terms of sexuality. Furthermore, his reaction to discovering he has brought home a penis further suggests that he is uncomfortable with sexual issues: “ ‘I don’t make a habit out of picking up stray penises.’ ”; “ ‘That’s enough,’ he said hurriedly. ‘I don’t think we should keep looking at it. Let’s wrap it in something.’ ”
The above quotation suggests that Alfie might feel threatened by the penis he found, particularly since his wife considers it to be bigger than his.
Alfie wants to get rid of the penis by throwing it away, but he realises that he might earn some money in the process if he takes it to an artist friend (a sculptor): “Alfie would get paid. His wife told him that he should become more ‘business minded’.”
This suggests that Alfie is not that business inclined as his wife would like him to be, but still material-minded and influenced by his wife.
However, Alfie panics when he sees a policeman heading in his direction and throws the bagged penis onto the street. This suggests that Alfie experiences guilt because the penis is in his possession. This pushes him to act like a criminal, throwing the penis over a bridge and fleeing the place as if he is running from a crime scene.
When Doug and Alfie meet, Alfie is still full of remorse and feels like a wanted criminal: “Alfie was distraught, convinced the police was pursuing him not only for stealing a penis and trying to sell it, but for dropping it on the head of a Japanese tourist passing beneath Tower Bridge on a pleasure cruiser.”
When Alfie realises he met Doug the night before and that he took his penis, he confesses and offers to give Doug a free haircut as compensation: “Alfie explai...