Rosacoke Mustian, a woman about twenty years old who must make important decisions when she discovers that she is pregnant. The father of the child, Wesley Beavers, has offered to marry her, but she fears the very thought of childbirth because her friend, Mildred Sutton, died during the birth of her child Sledge. Rosacoke’s participation in the church Christmas pageant as the Virgin Mary reassures her and gives her the strength to determine her future. She decides to marry Wesley.
Wesley Beavers, Rosacoke’s boyfriend and the father of the child she is carrying. Wesley, who is twenty-four years old, has been seeing Rosacoke for three years, all the while sleeping with other women. It is not until he learns of her pregnancy that he decides to settle down and marry her, more out of a sense of honor than because he loves her.
Emma Mustian, Rosacoke’s mother. A widow who has survived many ordeals, she serves as a role model for her daughter.
Milo Mustian, Rosacoke’s older brother. The death of Milo’s son Horatio Mustian II also gives Rosacoke pause when she contemplates motherhood.
Sissie Mustian, Milo’s wife. As the mother of four children who is carrying her fifth, Horatio Mustian II, she offers a model of what Rosacoke might expect if she marries Wesley.
Horatio (Rato) Mustian
Horatio (Rato) Mustian, Rosacoke’s younger brother, a private in the Army. Like his deceased father, he appears to have little religion and few morals. He goes home shortly before Christmas to relate his experiences in the military. While in the Army, he forgets how to pray.
Mildred Sutton, Rosacoke’s African American friend. Like Rosacoke, she became pregnant out of wedlock. She died giving birth to her son Sledge before the opening of the novel.
Sledge Sutton, Mildred’s child, the son of Sammy Ransom.
Isaac Alston, the oldest member of the community.
Horatio Mustian II
Horatio Mustian II, Milo’s child, who dies.