Mrs. Atkins is Ruth’s widowed, invalid mother, who never forgives her daughter for marrying Robert Mayo instead of Andy. Mrs. Atkins criticizes Robert’s inefficiency in running both the Mayo farm and her farm. She also complains about Ruth and Robert’s sickly child, Mary, who often cries to her mother. Mrs. Atkins is an extremely religious person and says cruelly to Kate Mayo that her husband died early because he was a sinner and that the ill-fated marriage between Robert and Ruth was also a result of God’s will. Although Mrs. Atkins claims in the second act that she is about to die, she outlives many of the other characters and survives until the end of the play. At this point, she is sneaking money to Ruth behind Robert’s back to help pay the bills, since Robert is having a hard time keeping the farm running on his own.
Ruth Atkins is Mrs. Atkins’s daughter and the wife of Robert Mayo. In the beginning, she dates Andy, but she falls in love with Robert when he speaks about his dream of going on a sea voyage. As a result, she tells him she does not love Andy and convinces Robert not to go on his voyage. Her choice influences Andy to leave the Mayo farm and take Robert’s place on the voyage, since he cannot bear to see Ruth with another man, especially his brother. As the play goes on, Ruth’s happiness and her ability to love slowly wane. Three years later, Ruth has aged considerably. She and Robert hate each other, and Ruth says she loves Andy. They both agree that if it were not for Mary (their small, sickly child) they would leave each other. Ruth tries to rekindle the flame with Andy when he comes home for a visit, but before she can tell him her feelings, he lets her know that he does not love her anymore. Ruth is hurt and is rude to Andy, who assumes she does not want him around.
When Andy comes home again five years later, Mary has died, and Ruth is a broken woman. Like the Mayo farm, her life is in decay, and she sits around while Robert’s health quickly declines. She accepts money from her mother, behind Robert’s back, to help pay the bills. When Robert shows some renewed energy in his feverish state and says that they should move to the city and start over, Ruth is frightened. When Andy comes in with a medical specialist, who tells them that Robert is dying, and Andy blames Ruth, she is too exhausted to fight back. Robert’s dying wish is to have Andy marry Ruth, which Andy suggests at the end of the play. But, Ruth is too exhausted to care and does not indicate whether she will be willing to do this.
Ben is the farmhand who quits working for Robert because he is ashamed to work for such a poor farm.
Doctor Fawcett is the specialist that Andy brings to see Robert. Fawcett tells Andy and Ruth that Robert is dying of tuberculosis and that if Robert had gotten to a better climate six months earlier, he might have survived.
Andrew Mayo, or Andy, as most of his family calls him, is the son who is expected to take over the Mayo farm. He shocks everybody when he leaves the farm to go on a sea voyage with his uncle, Captain Scott. In the beginning, Andy is in love with Ruth Atkins and is looking forward to taking over the farm. He is distraught when his brother, Robert, whom he loves dearly, decides to cancel his sea voyage to marry Ruth and stay on the farm. Andy’s decision to go to sea creates a permanent rift between him and his father, James, who dies while Andy is at sea. During Andy’s three years at sea, Captain Scott trains him to become a naval officer, a career that he decides to abandon after his first voyage. The first time he comes home to visit, he makes it a point to tell both Robert and Ruth that he does not love Ruth anymore, thinking that it will remove the awkwardness between them. Instead, he hurts Ruth, who was preparing to declare her love for him.
Before Andy arrives home for his first visit, everybody places their hopes on him, thinking from his letters that he will stay to work on the farm and undo the damage that Robert has done. However, Andy lets everybody know that he is shipping out to Buenos...
(The entire section is 1751 words.)