The father, who is a farmer, is a dynamic character because he undergoes a change of attitude in the narrative. As the farmer and his son walk the corn fields, they happily see that the corn has done well in the dry spring because the roots have stayed solidly in the ground. When the father sees a ground squirrel, an animal notorious for digging up the roots of the corn stalk in order to eat the sweet grain of corn left on its tender roots, he sicks his dog upon what he considers a varmint. Then, when the boy and his father happen upon a blacksnake, the father also orders the dog to kill it. His son urges him to not kill the snake because it is a female blacksnake and harmless to man, and it catches "more mice from the fields than a cat." The father is adamant that his dog Bob kill it, and the dog obeys. He simply tells his son, "A snake is an enemy to me... I hate a snake." Unlike his son, who silently notices all the beauty in nature on their walk home, the father makes no comment that indicates he has paid any attention to his surroundings.
When father and son return to the field the next day, the son spots the bull blacksnake. It is coiled by the doomed female; the father looks at the male snake and asks his son, "What do you know of this?" His son tells him that the bull blacksnake clearly followed the trail of its mate and he coiled beside her. The son adds that this bull blacksnake would fight Bob to his death. Having seen such an act that only a creature of some intelligence and feeling could perform, the father realizes that he has misjudged snakes. He says, "Did you ever see anything to beat that? I've heard they'd do that. But this is my first time to see it." Moved by the show of feeling by the snake, a demonstration that only an animal of higher intelligence and feeling is capable of, he then instructs his son to gather the snake onto a stick and toss him over the hill where Bob will not find him. This is a snake that deserves some respect, the changed father feels.
The son is a static character, meaning he does not change. However, he is more fully developed than many static characters in fiction. While the son does not change, he is not a flat character with few attributes. Rather, this boy is a sensitive person who has a great appreciation for nature as he comments upon it in several passages. For example, as they walk home on the first day, he comments:
Neither my father nor I spoke. I still thought about the dead snake. The sun was going down over the chestnut ridge. A lark was singing. It was late for a lark to sing. The red evening clouds floated above the pine trees on our pasture hill.
The youth exhibits much delight in the beauty of nature, and he possesses patience with his seemingly insensitive father even though it bothers him that his father is not more in tune with nature. For instance, as they trek home, the son describes the world around him, but the father seems hardened to life. "And my father hates a snake," the narrator thinks. "I thought about the agony women know of giving birth.... Then, I thought of the snake. I thought it was silly of me to think such thoughts." It does seem to bother the son that his father is so insensitive; this is his inner conflict. So, when the man shows respect for the bull blacksnake, the son is encouraged that his father has learned to appreciate nature more and realize that even snakes have feelings.
Love by Jesse Stuart has two major characters: the farmer and his son. The son, who narrates the story, sees the world as a place of destruction, but not always from the same place. The most evil of creatures can have compassion or tenderness as they destroy something. He relates a few tales about animals he has seen kill one another, but in a way that is not a massacre. He also sees that forgiveness must be asked when someone takes a life, when he pays penitence for the death of the snake he kills. When the last portion of the story happens and the boy sees the mate of the snake return to see her dead "love", something inside him breaks and he begins to understand what it means to actually love. The final portion of the story is told through the father's voice. He shows the reader that compassion for the dead, even for a dead snake, must be a priority in order to understand what love is.