Hirshl Hurvitz (HUR-shuhl), the weak-willed son of a wealthy shopkeeper. He falls madly in love with the family servant, Blume, who is also his cousin. His domineering mother manipulates him into a more suitable marriage, which he spinelessly accepts. His feelings for his wife range from detached tolerance to hatred. In the first year of his marriage, he falls into a deep depression that culminates in insanity. With the help of Dr. Langsam, he slowly returns to health and is able to find a measure of happiness within the conventions of family life and the traditions of the Jewish community.
Blume Nacht (BLEW-meh nahkt), Hirshl’s beautiful, penniless cousin, who becomes a servant in his household after the death of her parents. She is a paragon housekeeper and cook, yet quiet and retiring and as mysterious as her name, meaning “night flower,” suggests. She secretly returns Hirshl’s love, but when she learns of his betrothal, she leaves her employment with the Hurvitzes. Deeply hurt, idealistic, and proud, she remains loyal to her secret love, although two other men want her. By the novel’s end, she has faded from sight.
Mina Ziemlich (ZEEM-lihk), the daughter of a wealthy tavern keeper of a nearby town. She has been educated in a city boarding school and is considered cultured and fashionable. Although her betrothal to Hirshl is a product of matchmaking and misunderstanding, she admires her groom and is attracted to him....
(The entire section is 670 words.)