Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 456
Hannah Madoc, a natural, primitive young woman. Orphaned and penniless after her drunken father dies from a fall occasioned by Hannah’s pushing him off a porch in self-defense, Hannah goes to work in a store. Falling in love with Jule Bier, she rejects the attentions of others. Jule’s father wants him to marry someone else, however, and the grief-stricken Hannah goes away and becomes a prostitute. Jule goes to bring her home at last. The prematurely broken and bitter Hannah dies as the result of a fall.
Jule Bier, a young farmhand. In love with Hannah, he nevertheless follows his father’s orders and marries a wealthy girl. He acquires a wonderful understanding of life, and as an old man advises his wife’s nephew to accept the simple values, like Hannah’s, rather than the warped, false values of people whose religion masks a fear of life.
Selma Duncan, Jule’s wife, daughter of a wealthy farmer. She brings up her daughter to fear love and sex, with disastrous results. When the daughter’s body is found, the news is kept from the ailing Selma.
Rosalia Bier, the daughter of Jule and Selma. Seduced, she is tormented by feelings of guilt, though she hides her fear from her lover. After her lover leaves, she is convinced that a baby is her inevitable punishment. She runs away in a snowstorm; her body is found the following spring in a swamp and quietly buried there by Jule, his nephew, and a neighbor.
Mike Byron, a robust, zestful young man who works on Jule’s farm. He loves Rosalia and becomes her lover. Jule tells him that he would not object to the marriage, but Mike feels trapped and leaves.
Dan Strane, Selma’s nephew. A frustrated adolescent brought up in ignorance of sex by his tight-lipped mother, he is torn between curiosity and feelings of shame. Mike instructs Dan, telling him that life’s processes are not obscene but wonderful. Mike is Dan’s idol, but after Rosalia’s desertion and death, Dan hates the memory of Mike. A talk with the understanding Jule reconciles the conflicts Dan feels. At the story’s close, Dan is preparing to enter the state university.
Mrs. Strane, Selma’s sister, Dan’s straitlaced mother.
Mr. Bier, Jule’s father, cold and calculating. He orders his son to court Selma.
Mrs. Boyle, in whose store the orphaned Hannah works.
Mr. Boyle, her husband. Hannah leaves the store to go to work on a farm near Jule’s home after Mr. Boyle tries to make love to her.
Unlock This Study Guide Now
- 30,000+ book summaries
- 20% study tools discount
- Ad-free content
- PDF downloads
- 300,000+ answers
- 5-star customer support