The protagonist of The Ponder Heart is Edna Earle, who has to manage the family's hotel and prevent her eccentric Uncle Daniel from giving away what remains of the family's fortune. As she says, "It's always taken a lot out of me, being smart" (10). While Edna Earle loves many aspects of her uncle, Daniel, and calls him the "sweetest, most unspoiled thing in the world" (11), Daniel is the antagonist of the novella. Working in opposition to Edna Earle, he gives away the family's possessions without restraint, including trips to Memphis, a string of hams, a pick-up truck, and even a heifer. Eventually, Daniel's largesse becomes so unrestrained that Edna Earle and Daniel's father, Sam, try to have Daniel put in an institution. They later coerce Daniel into marrying a wealthy widow, but Daniel foils Edna Earle's plans at every step.