Clybourne Park

by

Bruce Norris

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Karl Linder Character Analysis

A white man in his thirties. He is married to Betsy, and is the father of Kathy. Karl is the only character to appear onstage in both A Raisin in the Sun and Clybourne Park. He is the one to discover that the Younger family who has purchased Bev and Russ’s house is black, and he goes to their home to try and bribe them into giving up their new house, events which occur in Raisin and serve as a backstory for the plot of Clybourne. Karl is a doting, protective husband who so deeply cares about this wife’s wellbeing that his behavior toward her becomes patronizing. He likes to talk but hates to listen, and so arguments with him are aggravating for all parties involved. He is an aggressive opponent of integration in the neighborhood, and has come to Bev and Russ’s house in an attempt to convince them not to go through with the sale. Of all the characters that appears in the play, he is the most openly racist, although his racism is couched in genuine (if misguided) concern for his community. Karl is played by the same actor who plays Steve in Act II.

Karl Linder Quotes in Clybourne Park

The Clybourne Park quotes below are all either spoken by Karl Linder or refer to Karl Linder. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Race and Racism Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Farrar, Straus and Giroux edition of Clybourne Park published in 2011.
Act 1 Quotes

Now, Russ, you know as well as I do that this is a progressive community.

Related Characters: Karl Linder (speaker), Russ Stoller, Bev Stoller, Jim, The Younger Family
Page Number: 61
Explanation and Analysis:

Karl: It’s a colored family.
Jim: Sorry, don’t we say Negro, now?
Karl: I say Negro —
Jim: Well, it’s only common courtesy, and I’m —
Karl: — I say them interchangeably
Jim: — not trying to tell you how to conduct your business.
Karl: — and of course I said Negro to them — No I think we both know what you’re doing.

Related Characters: Karl Linder (speaker), Jim (speaker), Russ Stoller, Bev Stoller, Ted Driscoll, The Younger Family
Page Number: 62
Explanation and Analysis:

Karl: Bev, they are one hundred percent. And if I don’t know how much time any of you have spent in Hamilton Park, but Betsy was waiting in the car and I can tell you, there are some unsavory characters.
Russ: Karl?
Karl: But in the case of Gelman’s: I think there was some mistrust at first, having been Kopeckne’s Market for such a long time, but in the end of all Murray Gelman found a way to fit in.
Bev: And they hired the Wheeler boy.

Related Characters: Russ Stoller (speaker), Bev Stoller (speaker), Karl Linder (speaker), Mr. Wheeler, The Younger Family
Page Number: 64
Explanation and Analysis:

And fitting into a community is really what it all comes down to…Now, some would say change is inevitable. And I can support that, if it’s change for the better. But I’ll tell you what I can’t support, and that’s disregarding the needs of the people who live in a community.

Related Characters: Karl Linder (speaker), Bev Stoller, Jim, Murray Gelman, The Younger Family
Page Number: 64
Explanation and Analysis:

Karl: And what happened to love thy neighbor? If we’re being so principled.
Bev: They would become our neighbors.
Karl: And what about the neighbors you already have Bev?
Bev: I care about them, too!
Karl: Well, I’m afraid you can’t have it both ways.

Related Characters: Bev Stoller (speaker), Karl Linder (speaker), Russ Stoller, Jim, The Younger Family
Page Number: 66
Explanation and Analysis:

Bev: Francine and I have, over the years, the two of us have shared so many wonderful—remember that time the squirrel came through the window?
Francine: Yes, I do.
Bev: That was just the silliest—the two of us were just hysterical weren’t we?

Related Characters: Bev Stoller (speaker), Francine (speaker), Karl Linder, Jim, Albert
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:

Karl: I think that you’d agree, I’m assuming, that in the world, there exist certain differences. Agreed?
Francine: What sort of difference?
Karl: That people live differently.
Francine: …Yes?
Karl: From one another.
Francine: I agree with that.
Karl: Different customs, different…well, different foods, even. And those diff—here’s a funny—my wife, Betsy, now, Betsy’s family happens to be Scandinavian, and on holidays they eat a thing known as lutefisk. And this is a dish, which I can tell you...is not to my liking at all. It’s...oh my goodness, let’s just say it’s gelatinous.

Related Characters: Karl Linder (speaker), Francine (speaker), Betsy Linder
Page Number: 72
Explanation and Analysis:

Jim: —You do find differences in modes of worship. If you take First Presbyterian. Now, that’s a church down in Hamilton Park and I’ve taken fellowship there and I can tell you, the differences are notable.
Bev: Jim?
Jim: Not a value judgment. Apples and oranges. Just as how we have our organ here at Saint Thomas, for accompaniment, whereas at First Presbyterian, they prefer a piano and, occasionally…well, tambourines.

Bev: What’s wrong with tambourines?

Related Characters: Bev Stoller (speaker), Jim (speaker), Karl Linder, The Younger Family
Page Number: 77
Explanation and Analysis:

Bev: And for all we know this family could be perfectly lovely.
Karl: Well, that’s hardly the point, is it?
Bev: Maybe it’s a point to consider.
Karl: Bev, I’m not here to solve society’s problems. I’m simply telling you what will happen, and it will happen as follows: First one family will leave, then another, and another, and each time they do, the values of these properties will decline, and once that process begins, once you break that egg, Bev, all the kings horses, etcetera—

Related Characters: Bev Stoller (speaker), Karl Linder (speaker), The Younger Family
Page Number: 80
Explanation and Analysis:

Russ: If you honestly think I give a rat’s ass about the goddamn—
Jim: Okay. Okay.
Russ: —what, ya mean the community where every time I go for a haircut, where they all sit and stare like the goddamn grim reaper walked in the barber shop door? That community?
Karl: My wife is two weeks away from giving birth to a child.
Russ: Where, Bev stops at Gelman’s for a quart of milk and they look at her like she’s got the goddamn plague? That the community I’m supposed to be looking out for?

Related Characters: Russ Stoller (speaker), Karl Linder (speaker), Jim (speaker), Bev Stoller, Betsy Linder, Kenneth Stoller
Page Number: 87
Explanation and Analysis:

And Francine walking in at nine in the morning to find him there. You be my guest, Karl. You go ahead and tell those people what kind of house they’re moving into and see if that stops ‘em, because I’ll tell you what, I don’t care if a hundred Ubangi tribesman with a bone through the nose overrun this goddamn place, ‘cause I’m through with all of you, ya motherfucking sons of bitches. Every one of you.

Related Characters: Russ Stoller (speaker), Bev Stoller, Karl Linder, Francine, Jim, Kenneth Stoller
Page Number: 92
Explanation and Analysis:

I think they’re all a buncha idiots. And who’s the biggest idiot of all to let yourself get dragged into the middle of it? Whatcha gonna be now, the big peacemaker come to save the day?...Let ‘em knock each other’s brains out, for all I care. I’m done working for these people two days from now, and you never worked for ‘em at all, so what the hell do you care what they do? And now I am going to the goddamn car.

Related Characters: Francine (speaker), Russ Stoller, Bev Stoller, Karl Linder, Albert
Page Number: 94
Explanation and Analysis:
Act 2 Quotes

Steve:… Are you “offended”?
Kevin: Nope.
Steve: Neither am I.
Lindsey: You can’t be offended, you moron —
Steve:…I can’t?
Lindsey: — because you’ve never been politically marginalized, unlike the majority of people in the world —
Steve: How can a majority be marginal?
Lindsey: — and, by the way, all women, everywhere, and it’s your classic white male myopia that you’re blind to that basic fact.
Lena: Why is a white woman like a tampon?
Lindsey: Why is what?
Lena: It’s a joke.

Related Characters: Lindsey (speaker), Steve (speaker), Lena (speaker), Bev Stoller, Karl Linder, Francine, Kathy, Kevin
Page Number: 193
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire Clybourne Park LitChart as a printable PDF.
Clybourne Park PDF

Karl Linder Character Timeline in Clybourne Park

The timeline below shows where the character Karl Linder appears in Clybourne Park. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Act 1
Neighborhoods and Ownership Theme Icon
Disability and Inclusion Theme Icon
...and Francine answers. Her conversation with the man on the phone, who announces himself as Karl Linder, a neighbor, is interspersed with Bev and Russ’s conversation. Bev tells Francine that she’ll... (full context)
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Bev takes the phone from Francine and tries to convince Karl not to come visit, explaining that the house is in disarray and Russ is feeling... (full context)
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...Russ about the state of the house. Russ, listening in on Bev’s phone call with Karl, is distracted as Jim tells a long anecdote about how he injured his back moving... (full context)
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Russ asks Bev if Karl is coming over. She ignores the question and starts talking to Jim about Karl’s wife,... (full context)
Alone again, Jim and Russ make small talk. Jim overheard Bev tell Karl that Russ was under the weather, so Jim asks Russ what’s wrong. Russ explains he’s... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
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...once again she declines. As Albert and Francine exit through the front door, they pass Karl Linder, who was about the ring the bell. Outside, Albert quietly asks Francine “What is... (full context)
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Bev invites Karl inside, but he hesitates, revealing his wife is in the car. Bev tells him to... (full context)
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Karl and Betsy return. Betsy is visibly very pregnant, and Bev coos over her stomach. Betsy... (full context)
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...Jim responds that he must have rusty fingers, which Betsy doesn’t understand at first, and Karl must translate. Betsy responds that Jim must need soap, and Jim laughs politely. Bev then... (full context)
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...but she ignores him. He acknowledges Betsy because she says hello to him, but ignores Karl. Albert and Francine enter through the front door and go upstairs to deal with the... (full context)
Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Karl tells Russ he has something he needs to talk to him about. Jim tries to... (full context)
Communication and Miscommunication Theme Icon
Disability and Inclusion Theme Icon
...go to the dining table where they communicate by writing on a pad of paper. Karl resumes speaking, and explains he’s been so concerned about Betsy because her last pregnancy, two... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Karl announces that the neighborhood Community Association has uncovered that the buyers of the Stollers' house... (full context)
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Jim interrupts Karl, asking if he should be saying “Negro” instead of “colored.” Karl responds that he says... (full context)
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Karl continues to talk, saying that he’s gone to meet with the family, and although he... (full context)
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Men, Women, and Gender Roles Theme Icon
Karl doesn’t think integrating will lead to positive change, and argues that to let a black... (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
...He wants to know how they would feel moving into a neighborhood like Clybourne Park. Karl tries to interrupt, arguing they should ask “those who stand to lose,” but Jim presses... (full context)
...she and Francine “over the years […]  have shared so many wonderful” memories, a reverie Karl interrupts. (full context)
Race and Racism Theme Icon
Neighborhoods and Ownership Theme Icon
Karl shares that he believes different groups of people have different customs, for example Betsy is... (full context)
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Russ returns, calmer, from the basement, in time to hear Karl bring up skiing as a point of racial division. Karl has never seen a black... (full context)
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Russ interrupts Karl, and reminds him the house is sold, and that he and Bev are moving on... (full context)
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Karl then asks Francine and Albert how they would feel, if white people moved into their... (full context)
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Neighborhoods and Ownership Theme Icon
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...leave, and Francine asks Bev if it’s okay to go, but before anyone can move Karl bursts back in through the front door. He threatens to tell the new family moving... (full context)
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Russ, fed up, begins an explosive monologue. Throughout, Karl tries to cut him off for the sake of pregnant Betsy, whom he tells to... (full context)
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...was accused, and remembers how he was a gentle boy, calling on Francine to corroborate. Karl begins to apologize for bringing up this fraught family history, but Bev accuses him of... (full context)
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Russ sarcastically tells Karl he can make copies of the letter and hand it out at Rotary, saying “Rotary... (full context)
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...and Russ threatens to punch him. Jim backs up and trips over a moving box. Karl, afraid for Betsy’s safety, sends her running out of the house to the car. (full context)
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...shoulder. Russ then turns on him, offended that Albert touched him in his own home. Karl and Jim take this moment to leave. Albert backs away from Russ, and Francine reprimands... (full context)