Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Seth Holly, the owner of a Pittsburgh boardinghouse, in his early fifties. A skilled craftsman born to northern free parents, he supplements income from his boarders with money made from making pots and pans, and he hopes to start his own business soon. On Sunday nights, he plays host to a Juba, a call-and-response dance reminiscent of the ring shouts of African slaves.
Bertha Holly, Seth’s wife for twenty-seven years, five years younger than he is. A kind, warm-spirited woman who cares for her boarders, she professes a faith in the healing powers of love and laughter.
Herald Loomis, a thirty-two-year-old searching for his long-lost wife, Martha. He comes to live at the boardinghouse. Dressed in a hat and a long wool coat, he has been roaming the countryside for four years with his daughter, hoping that contact with Martha will somehow bring him peace. A former deacon at the Abundant Life Church in Memphis, he was abducted and forced to work on a chain gang controlled by Joe Turner, the brother of the Tennessee governor, in 1901. His servitude, which lasted seven years, left him deeply anguished. Having worried Seth with his moodiness, Herald is told to leave the boardinghouse after he has a fit during a Juba. When he finally is reunited with Martha, he delivers their child to her, becoming increasingly agitated and bitterly expressing his lack of faith in Christianity. Slashing himself in the chest frees him from the trauma of his years of bondage and solitude and enables him to leave the boardinghouse a healthier man.
Martha Loomis Pentecost
Martha Loomis Pentecost, Herald’s twenty-eight-year-old wife. Five years after Herald was captured by Joe Turner and she was forced to leave their home, Martha...
(The entire section is 757 words.)
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