The Story of a Country Town (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Abram Nedrow (Ned) Westlock
Abram Nedrow (Ned) Westlock, a Middle Border boy (and man), the narrator of the story. He is a farm helper for his father and later an apprentice in journalism. He becomes a successful editor of the paper his father leaves him. For years in love with Agnes, he marries her after his mother’s death. A close observer of people, he is also a moralist on such matters as temperance and personal industry. As a critic of small-town temperament and mores, he anticipates Sinclair Lewis’ Carol Kennicott.
The Reverend John Westlock
The Reverend John Westlock, his father, a Methodist minister, a strong, capable, independent, and thrifty man. He also is a domestic tyrant, a hard worker, and strongly opinionated. Suffering from a gnawing discontent, he leaves the ministry, becomes the editor of a newspaper, and later deserts his family, informing Ned of a seven-year liaison with Mrs. Tremaine, who accompanies him in his flight.
Mrs. Westlock, the minister’s weak, timid, and submissive wife. She dies just before her repentant husband returns.
Jo Erring, her younger brother, in early youth a member of the Westlock household and throughout his life a close friend of Ned. Stout, energetic, and ambitious but rather crude and uneducated, he works hard to prove himself worthy of...
(The entire section is 587 words.)
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Summary (Masterplots, Definitive Revised Edition)
The Westlocks had gone west to grow up with the country. They lived first on a farm near a church where the father acted as the volunteer preacher. It was a life of toil and privation on the bleak prairie. Days began early and ended soon after supper, when fatigue drove the Westlocks to bed. There were four of them, John Westlock and his wife, their son, Ned, and Mrs. Westlock’s younger brother, Jo Erring. The only real amusement Ned had was visiting a nearby miller with his young uncle. The miller, Mr. Barker, had been a sailor in early life, and he regaled the boys with stories of his travels.
When Ned was eleven years old, a minister was sent from the East to take charge of the country church where Mr. Westlock had been acting as preacher. Erring immediately fell in love with Mateel Shepherd, the daughter of the new preacher, but he found no favor in her eyes because he was uneducated and crude. With the miller’s help, he began to improve himself. The miller became so fond of Erring that he took him on as an apprentice who would some day take over the mill. This was a great opportunity for the seventeen-year-old boy. The only flaw in his happiness then was that Mateel Shepherd was being courted by a young lawyer named Clinton Bragg.
Shortly after Erring left the farm, Mr. Westlock sold his farm and bought the almost defunct paper in the town of Twin Mounds. When the Westlocks moved into town, Ned went to the office every day to learn...
(The entire section is 1418 words.)