Fred Ferguson, a bank employee in Belmond, Iowa. Born and reared on a nearby farm, he has worked hard for what he has: a pleasant home, a good job, and the respect of his church and his community. Fred does not see that society is changing. If he is one of the last of his social class to hire domestic help, upgrade his house, or buy a car, it is not that he is consciously resisting the lure of materialism but simply that he likes things as they are, especially when the old ways save him money. Only late in life, when he returns from his first long trip away from home to find his church closed and his bank shaky, does Fred see that his world and his values are rapidly disappearing.
Annie Ferguson, Fred’s wife. Reared in a poor but easygoing German family, Annie resents being forced into the mold of the Fergusons, whom she sees as being ruled by Scotch stinginess, and having to fit into the role of the perfect wife and mother, thereby losing her own identity. Even though the children she loves are soon grown and gone, leaving her with a husband who does not understand her, Annie thinks of herself as fortunate. After she has finally accomplished her heart’s desire by taking a trip to California, she finds that her old passion for Fred has returned.
Carl William Ferguson
Carl William Ferguson, their older son, who tailors his behavior to win the approval of others. Adored by his mother, Carl always tries to be a “good boy.” In high school, however, when he leads the student body at a pep rally, he gains a new self-confidence, and he is certain that he will accomplish great deeds. Although he is drawn to strong-willed women, after graduation from college he marries his high school sweetheart, the colorless, passive Lillian White. Carl becomes a school principal, then a superintendent. When two of his teachers...
(The entire section is 786 words.)