Mary Tilford, a malicious fourteen-year-old schoolgirl. She attends a private girls’ school, where she bullies her fellow classmates, disobeys her teachers, and whines when she is not given her way. She has been brought up by an indulgent grandmother who has spoiled her. When two of her teachers, Karen Wright and Martha Dobie, try to discipline her, she retaliates by spreading the rumor that they are lesbians. Although the rumor is untrue, Mary sticks to her charge. Her shocked grandmother then removes her from the school and convinces the parents of the other children to do likewise, thus destroying the school and ruining the teachers’ lives.
Amelia Tilford, an influential and wealthy older woman. She dotes on Mary, her grandchild. She knows that Mary is petulant, and she initially scoffs at Mary’s attack on the teachers, but she is horrified when Mary whispers her charge that Martha and Karen are lesbians. Blinded by her outrage and unwilling to see through Mary’s manipulation of the facts, she succeeds not only in closing the school but also in ostracizing the two teachers. When Amelia finally learns of Mary’s deception, she abjectly asks for Karen’s forgiveness and searches for a way to rectify the harm she has caused the teachers.
Martha Dobie, an intense woman, twenty-eight years old, devoted to her friendship with Karen and rather jealous of Joe Cardin, Karen’s fiancé. When...
(The entire section is 620 words.)