Nelson Van Alden

Nelson Van Alden

    Boardwalk Empire
Photo Credit: Everett Collection

Character Analysis

(Avoiding Spoilers)

Grew Up… in a small town in upstate New York. He had a good, Christian upbringing, and was rightfully instilled with the values of Christ and his church. He was raised to believe that America is a God-fearing nation, where one should tremble before both the Lord and the law.

Visiting… Atlantic City, N.J. Nelson is stationed away from his home in upstate New York. It is difficult for him to be separated from his wife, Rose, but he has come to Atlantic City to do God’s work of enforcing the law.

Profession… Prohibition Agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It is Van Alden’s job to take down Nucky Thompson, the kingpin of the Atlantic City illegal alcohol trade. The sale, distribution and consumption of alcohol are, of course, outlawed in the United States due to Prohibition. As Nelson puts it my quoting from Scripture: “And the angel said: That who worships the beast, shall drink from the wine of the wrath of God. And he shall torment with fire in the presence of the Lamb.”

Relationship status… married with no children, despite trying hard to have one. Agent Van Alden’s wife, Rose, lives apart from him while he works in Atlantic City. Though it is unclear where his real commitments lie: with his wife, with the Bureau, or with God? Rose may not be getting the attention that she needs from her husband.

Challenge… overcoming the FBI’s lack of resources and general indifference to enforce the Eighteenth Amendment, which outlawed alcohol. Van Alden’s colleagues believe that their mission is futile, that the government has little chance of taking down Atlantic City’s criminal network. Nelson, on the other hand, sees it as his duty to God to topple Thompson’s empire, no matter what the cost.

Personality… very little. Nelson is an extremely serious man with an intense commitment to his work and his God. When criminals are controlling America’s streets, there is very little to laugh about.


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