Peyton Loftis, the youngest daughter of Helen and Milton Loftis. She is emotionally scarred by her mother’s continuous rejection and her father’s smothering love and indulgence. At her sixteenth birthday party, Peyton, encouraged by her father, drinks alcohol and infuriates her mother. When Helen attempts to make Peyton leave the party, Peyton proclaims her hatred for her mother. Later that evening, Peyton becomes aware of her father’s infidelity, causing further distress. She soon leaves home for college, and her subsequent attempts to return lead only to further estrangement. She eventually leaves school for New York City, where she meets and marries Harry Miller. The wedding—Peyton’s last attempt to return home and win her mother’s approval—ends with Peyton and Milton both becoming drunk, Peyton telling Milton to stop smothering her, and Helen declaring that she despises Peyton. Peyton and Harry leave for their honeymoon, but their marriage already is doomed. Seemingly incapable of love and yet insanely jealous of Harry’s perceived indiscretions, Peyton begins sleeping with other men. She returns to Harry, simultaneously blaming him and begging his forgiveness. Harry leaves her, and Peyton’s letters to her father reveal the depths of her despair. She kills herself by jumping naked from a building in New York, and her body is left unclaimed and buried in Potter’s Field until Harry rescues it.
Milton Loftis, a lawyer in Port Warwick, Virginia, whose career is stagnant and whose family life is miserable. He is constantly put down by his wife, Helen, who assumes moral superiority and who maintains financial control of the family by means of a substantial inheritance. Milton turns to alcohol and eventually to Dolly Bonner to find solace. He virtually ignores his eldest daughter, Maudie, but is lovingly obsessed with Peyton and constantly tries to serve as...
(The entire section is 800 words.)