The Girl, the unnamed narrator, daughter of poor, rural Minnesotans. She makes her way to the twin cities, “Sodom and Gomorrah,” as her mother calls them, and finds work in a speakeasy called the German Village. There, she falls in love with Butch. They become involved in a bank robbery that results in Butch’s death. The Girl, who is pregnant, returns to her women friends who live in a warehouse in St. Paul and help each other through collectives and by pooling their resources. She gives birth to a daughter.
Clara, a prostitute. Frail and loving, she befriends the Girl, who is unacquainted with the city. Clara is full of hope and imparts optimism to the Girl as they walk the bitter winter streets of St. Paul. Ironically, Clara, who knows the streets, is a dreamer of dreams derived from magazines or films, and all the time she is showing the Girl how to survive, she is dying. She dies as the Girl gives birth to a daughter named Clara.
Butch, a man with a dream. He wants to own a gas station, and he wants to love the Girl and to have a family. All of his dreams are thwarted because he cannot find work. His brother Bill is killed for “scabbing” during a strike, and in desperation, he goes along with Ganz, who plans to rob a bank. The plan is a fiasco. Butch is shot but escapes long enough to die in the arms of the Girl.
(The entire section is 486 words.)