Homer Clapp and Lucius Atherton both court Aner Clute. Aner Clute goes out with Homer Clapp but rebuffs his advances, preferring the attentions of Lucius Atherton, who is handsome and a dandy and known to be quite a womanizer.
Aner Clute is young and alluring, but ends up being branded with the reputation of a fallen woman. When asked how she acquired her position of disgrace, she responds, "a silk dress, and a promise of marriage from a rich man", Lucius Atherton, who never came through. Still, Aner Clute believes that she is a victim of the perceptions of her community. Having marked her as less than honorable, that is all they see of her, and no one takes the time to find out whom she really is.
Homer Clapp dated Aner Clute, but, unbeknownst to him at the time, she was seeing Lucius Atherton as well. When he realized what was happening, Clapp was devastated, his confidence totally diminished, and he spent his life piling failure upon failure, knowing that only in death would he once again be able to feel that he measures up to any other man.
Luis Atherton is a "Don Juan" in his youth, "an excellent knave of hearts (who) took many a trick". He won the heart of Aner Clute, took her virtue, and left her. As he grows older, however, "toothless...discarded", he is looked upon as a fool. "A new generation of girls..(laughs) at him", and he finds that years of high living and dissipation have driven him "to the dregs of life".