This is the love story of Ethel and Norman Thayer, who are returning to their summer home on Golden Pond for the forty-eighth year. He is a retired professor, nearing eighty, with heart palpitations and a failing memory—but still as tart-tongued, observant and eager for life as ever. Ethel, ten years younger, and the perfect foil for Norman, delights in all the small things that have enriched and continue to enrich their long life together. They are visited by their divorced, middle-aged daughter and her dentist fiancé, who then go off to Europe, leaving his teenage son behind for the summer. The boy quickly becomes the “grandchild” the elderly couple have longed for, and as Norman revels in taking his ward fishing and thrusting good books at him, he also learns some lessons about modern teenage awareness—and slang—in return. In the end, as the summer wanes, so does their brief idyll, and in the final, deeply moving moments of the play, Norman and Ethel are brought even closer together by the incidence of a mild heart attack. Time, they know, is now against them, but the years have been good and, perhaps, another summer on Golden Pond still awaits.
Norman Thayer, Jr.: Nearing his eightieth birthday, Norman is flirting with senility and is aware of it enough to use it to his advantage, usually in a humorous way. He is a curmudgeon, as he feels his age entitles him to be. He is very much in love with Ethel, his wife, but doesn’t quite know what to do about their daughter, Chelsea.
Ethel Thayer: Ten years younger than Norman, Ethel is a spritely, active woman who loves her husband completely and who is in love with simply being alive. She is caregiver, sweetheart, and friend to Norman.
Charlie Martin: The local delivery-by-boat mailman, Charlie is a long-time family friend and a typical Maine down-Easterner. Still single, he has had a life-long crush on Chelsea.
Chelsea Thayer Wayne: Attractive, divorced, and in her forties, Chelsea is still dealing with the lack of closeness between her and Norman. She is engaged to Bill Ray, whom she brings to meet her parents.
Billy Ray: The fourteen-year-old son of Bill Ray, he is a typical California teenager who comes to spend a month with Norman and Ethel on Golden Pond while his father and Chelsea are in Europe.
Bill Ray: Chelsea’s fiancé and Billy’s father, Bill is definitely not the outdoors type. He is trying his best to make a good impression on Norman and Ethel.