(Great Characters in Literature)

Characters Discussed

The Prioress

The Prioress, the forty-year-old spiritual leader of the Dominican sisters in an enclosed Catholic convent in Spain. Wise and loving, she permits the young novices a relaxation of the strict rules of silence as they celebrate her birthday. Her birthday takes an unusual twist when an infant is left at the convent door. She, with the aid of the old doctor, determines in the name of God to rear the abandoned infant in the convent. Eighteen years later, in the second act, she gives the child, Teresa, her blessings as the young woman leaves the convent to marry.

The Vicaress

The Vicaress, a forty-year-old sister. She fears any relaxation of the convent’s strict rules. Stern and unbending, she is sometimes scandalized by the actions of the novices and fears that the prioress is too forgiving of their minor transgressions. She questions the propriety of taking the child of an unwed mother into the convent. Softened by her love for Teresa, she joins the others in seeking to protect their ward as she leaves for her marriage.

Sister Joanna of the Cross

Sister Joanna of the Cross (hoh-AH-nah), an eighteen-year-old novice. She is torn between her desire to remain at the convent and her great love for her younger brothers and sisters, whom she has left at home. She devotes her loving care to the infant Teresa over the years. Caring for the child fulfills a deep need in her heart. Ultimately, Teresa recognizes her as her mother.


Teresa (teh-REH-sah), a foundling left at the convent by her unwed mother. Teresa’s singing is a constant joy to the sisters. Unspoiled and loving, she becomes a unifying force within the convent as all grow to love and cherish her. Her upcoming marriage and departure...

(The entire section is 767 words.)