Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 294
Anna Christopherson, a girl abandoned by her seagoing father and, after the death of her mother, reared by farmer relatives in Minnesota. She is a buxom, attractive girl who learns from farm boys the facts of life. In St. Louis, she becomes a prostitute. She goes to New York to join her father, who now is skipper of a coal barge. When her father fights a man who has resolved to get Anna for his own, Anna realizes that men regard women as their property. At the end, Anna, her father, and her lover are reconciled, and Anna is to be married at last.
Chris Christopherson, Anna’s father, a man whose family has paid a dreadful toll in lives to the sea. Chris loves his daughter and sailing ships; he hates steam vessels and especially hates the men who stoke the furnaces in them. He opposes Anna’s lover because he follows the sea in a steamship.
Mat Burke, Anna’s lover, who is rescued from the sea one night when the Simeon Winthrop rides at anchor in the outer harbor of Provincetown, Massachusetts. Burke’s Irish glibness both attracts Anna and makes her suspicious. When Burke, one night after a fight with Chris, learns that Anna has been a prostitute, he calls her names and storms out of her life. When he returns and talks with Anna, however, they realize that they are in love.
Marthy Owen, an old prostitute who lives on the coal barge with Chris. When Chris learns that Anna is leaving St. Louis for New York, he asks Marthy to leave. She consents to move on to someone else because, as she says, Chris had always been good to her.
Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 386
Chris Christopherson, Anna’s father, rescues Mat at sea. Mat is employed as a stoker (a person who tends a ship’s furnace and supplies it with fuel) aboard ocean liners. Thirty-year-old Mat is ‘‘a powerful, broad-chested six-footer, his face handsome in a hard, rough, bold, defiant way . . . [and is] in the full power of his heavy-muscled, immense strength.’’ He has very traditional attitudes about women and their place in society, but he loves Anna enough to accept her past. Unlike Chris, Mat believes that his destiny is shaped by his own strength and courage, coupled with the will of God.
See Anna Christopherson.
When Anna Christopherson (also called Anna Christie) first arrives at Johnny-The-Priest’s Saloon, she plainly shows ‘‘all the outward evidences of belonging to the world’s oldest profession. Her youthful face is already hard and cynical.’’ Her hard exterior shields her need for love, which she slowly allows to surface, after she determines that she has been cleansed through her contact with the sea.
Anna’s father Chris is captain of a coal barge and has spent his life on the sea. He is ‘‘a short, squat, broad-shouldered man of about fifty, with a round, weather-beaten, red face,’’ twinkling eyes, and ‘‘a simple good humor.’’ While his face reveals a nature that is ‘‘childishly self-willed and weak,’’ it also shows his ‘‘obstinate kindliness.’’ Chris loves his daughter, but he has been too weak to resist the lure of the sea; consequently, he has not taken responsibility for raising her. He is deeply superstitious about the power of the sea, and uses it as an excuse for his poor parenting. However, when Anna is threatened, first by the possibility of marriage to a sailor and then by rejection, Chris’s love for her emerges and makes him bold.
Johnny-The-Priest owns the bar where Anna and Chris reunite. Johnny is an ironic foil for Anna, whose outward, hard appearance masks her vulnerability.
Marthy is a weathered, older woman who exhibits a youthful love of life. She has been living on the barge with Chris. When she understands that Chris is worried about Anna’s response to their relationship, Marthy agrees to leave, accepting his rejection and her own relocation with a generous heart.