Alice Kelling—fiancée of Chris Watters
Chris Watters—a pilot who intends to sell rides on his airplane while living in a tent at the fairgrounds
Edie—a fifteen-year-old who works for the Peebles
Joey and Heather Peebles—the Peebles’ two children
Loretta Bird—a working-class neighbor
Dr. Peebles—a veterinarian who is married to Mrs. Peebles
Mrs. Peebles—Dr. Peebles’s wife; she does not relish domestic chores and so hires Edie
The mailman—a shy young man who eventually marries Edie
Alice Kelling arrives wearing sunglasses, and Edie immediately notices that her bust looks “rather low and lumpy,” she has a “worried face,” and her hands are freckled and wrinkled. Alice is a worn woman, her sunglasses symbolizing that she deludes herself and does not see the world clearly. Even though Watters has left clear clues that he is no longer interested in her, Alice continues to wait for him, even hunting him down to claim him. She is unhappy because she has held onto dreams that will never come true, and in this way she represents what Edie needs to avoid as she makes choices in her own life.
Chris Watters represents the freedom men have in a male-dominated society, his carefree life transcending all the versions of domesticity elsewhere in the story. He embodies romance: a man that loves ’em and leaves ’em, not cruelly but in a way that can delude. If Watters represents promises of romance, he also provides Edie the opportunity to grow and understand that she wants more out of life than waiting for a dream to come true and more, too, than his own restlessness will ever provide.
Loretta Bird criticizes Mrs. Peebles for napping and complains that she, Loretta, only eats home-canned fruit even though, as Edie tells us, “she never put down fruit in her life.” Edie is relieved Loretta did not catch her wearing Mrs. Peebles’s dress, for if she had, Edie is sure she would have told on her. Because Loretta lives an insignificant life, she intrudes on and judges the lives of those around her. “Some of them are that ignorant,” she says of Edie, while she condescendingly tells Alice, “Don’t get yourself upset,” adding with a pretense of worldly wisdom, “Men are all the same.” Mrs. Peebles tolerates Loretta but does not enjoy her, calling her at one point “that Bird woman.” Loretta provides another example of an unfulfilled woman: she is unhappy, yet, lacking self-knowledge, she will not change....
(The entire section is 727 words.)