Lester Ballard, a twenty-seven-year-old farmer in Sevier County, Tennessee. After his mother runs away and his father kills himself, Lester is left alone, too brutal and mean to make friends. In later years, his only companion is his rifle, and his only interests are hunting, drinking, and sex. After he loses the family farm for nonpayment of taxes and is badly beaten when he objects, he resolves to avenge himself on the new owner, John Greer. In the meantime, he tries to make a home in a remote, deserted house. All the women he approaches reject him. For companionship, he has to depend on three stuffed animals he wins at a fair; for a sexual outlet, he watches couples in cars or fondles clothing stolen from women. Lester is so preoccupied with his own needs that he has no empathy for others. When one girl turns him down, Lester murders her and sets her house on fire, leaving her retarded child to burn to death beside the body of his mother. Finally, Lester takes as his lover a girl he has found dead in a car. After he loses her body in a fire, he begins killing the women he needs. Although couples and cars keep disappearing, for a long time Lester is not suspected of being involved. Ironically, it is not his sexual obsession but his insistence on getting revenge that leads to his downfall. He tries to kill John Greer but merely wounds him. He is shot, loses an arm, and ends up in a mental hospital, where he is again lonely,...
(The entire section is 564 words.)