Joe Christmas, a mulatto. Placed in an orphan home by his demented grandfather, he is to lead a tortured life of social isolation, as he belongs neither to the white nor to the black race; in fact, he prefers this kind of existence. After staying with the fanatical Calvin McEachern during his boyhood, Joe knocks his foster father unconscious and strikes out on his own, rejecting any friendly overtures. At last, he is driven to his final desperate act: He kills his benefactress, Joanna Burden, and faces death at the hands of merciless Percy Grimm.
Joanna Burden, Joe Christmas’ mistress, the descendant of a New England family. Rejected by many of her neighbors, she is the friend of blacks and interested in improving their lot. In her efforts to make Joe useful to the world, she also tries to possess and dominate him sexually, and so meets her death.
Calvin McEachern, Joe’s foster father. A ruthless, unrelenting religious fundamentalist, McEachern, without real animosity, often beats the boy savagely for trifling misdemeanors and tells him to repent. He demands that “the Almighty be as magnanimous as himself.”
Eupheus Hines (Doc)
Eupheus Hines (Doc), Joe Christmas’ grandfather. A hot-tempered little man, he is often in fights. When he learns that his daughter Milly has a mulatto lover, the fiery old man kills him. Later, he allows Milly to...
(The entire section is 614 words.)