(Great Characters in Literature)

Characters Discussed

Colonel Comfort Servosse

Colonel Comfort Servosse, the central character, who tries to help the South during the aftermath of the Civil War. Born in Michigan and schooled there as a lawyer, Servosse has little idea of the cultural opposition he will face as a Northerner trying to live in the same area of the South where he had served in the Union Army as it demilitarized the defeated Confederate Army. Colonel Servosse is identified repeatedly by the narrator as a fool because of his ambitions to change quickly an old culture. Convinced of the need for education for black people and of land reforms to enable emancipated slaves to buy small farms, Colonel Servosse sets about promoting both, doing the latter at his own expense. As he struggles to help the powerless blacks and the outnumbered Unionists, he often finds himself threatened with violence and isolation from all but a few of his neighbors. In the end, he earns the respect of his Southern neighbors but comes to recognize that in taking the advice of so-called wise men from the North, he has become a fool whose ideals cannot be fully realized in the South.

Metta Ward Servosse

Metta Ward Servosse, the wife of Colonel Servosse. Metta recognizes that her husband’s quest to fight in the Civil War and rebuild the South with equality for all is doomed to failure, but she still supports his efforts. She bravely shares his isolation from most of their neighbors and writes many informative letters to her sister, Julia.

Lily Servosse

Lily Servosse, the daughter of Colonel Servosse. Her heroic ride one night saves her father and Judge Denton from an impending raid by the Ku Klux Klan. By the end of the novel, she is being courted by Melville Gurney, the man she shot in the arm the night of that ride. Because of her respect for authority, she refuses to marry Melville until his father grants permission.


(The entire section is 796 words.)