Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

The narrator

The narrator, a grape farmer from Ohio who settles in North Carolina because of his wife’s ill health, buying a dilapidated plantation which has an old vineyard. He hires Uncle Julius and is regaled by the old man with stories of witchcraft. The narrator learns by experience that the stories are usually told for a purpose, most often to the benefit of the old servant.


Annie, the narrator’s wife, whose ill health causes her husband’s removal from Ohio to North Carolina.

Uncle Julius

Uncle Julius, an elderly black man who tries to prevent the narrator from buying the plantation because he has been selling the grapes from the untended vineyard. He becomes the narrator’s coachman and loyal employee, but he often tells stories of witchcraft to prevent his employers from taking some action detrimental to his own well-being.

Aunt Peggy

Aunt Peggy, the black “conjure woman” of Uncle Julius’ stories. Her generally beneficent supernatural powers are used to place “goophers,” or spells, on people, places, or things.


Mabel, the narrator’s sister-in-law, who is persuaded by one of Uncle Julius’ stories to cease being jealous of a rival and to marry her fiancé.


Becky, a slave in one of Uncle Julius’ stories. She is helped by the powers of the conjure woman when her infant is traded by her owner for a horse.


Sandy, a slave in one of Uncle Julius’ stories who is turned into a tree by the conjure woman. She turns him into a tree so that their owner cannot take Sandy, whom she loves, away from her.

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

John, the book’s narrator, and his wife, Miss Annie, become willing listeners to Uncle Julius’s stories. John responds to Uncle Julius’s tales with amusement and skepticism about the ills of slavery and the motives of the storyteller. John is paternalistic and condescending toward African Americans. At first, he thinks that Uncle Julius is merely an old, ignorant, superstitious black man whose dialect stories are picturesque and entertaining. Later, he detects Uncle Julius’s selfish motives for telling his tales; however, John remains an insensitive character who is interested mainly in his wife’s health and his grape business.

Miss Annie, who has come to North Carolina to improve her health in the warm weather and leisurely southern atmosphere, is a more engaging character than her husband. She is a perceptive listener to Uncle Julius’s tales, and, unlike her husband, she demonstrates sympathy for the slaves in the stories. She understands the plight of Uncle Julius and the other local African Americans better than her husband does.

Uncle Julius is both superstitious and shrewd. He carries a rabbit’s foot for good luck, but his knowledge of his North Carolina surroundings proves indispensable to his employers, and he is able to manipulate them with his crafty storytelling. Each time his welfare is threatened, Uncle Julius tells a story to deter John’s actions or to solicit Annie’s sympathy. However, he is not entirely self-serving, a fact demonstrated by his telling of “Sis Becky’s Pickaninny” to Annie for no other reason than to cheer her up.