Wesley Tate, the young son of a lower-middle-class, rural California family. Feeling strong ties to his family and to the land, Wesley maintains the farm after the others have given up. He sees the sale of the land to real estate developers as having significance far greater than the loss of a mere house. At times, Wesley loses patience with his family members, as evidenced by his lack of sympathy for his sister’s ruined 4-H project, to which he responds by urinating on her charts and suggesting that his sister do something truly useful. He is also contemptuous of his mother’s attorney friend, to whom he is very rude and accusatory. Although Wesley does not get along with his father, he does feel certain responsibilities toward his family. He cleans up the mess left after one of his father’s frequent drunken binges and begins to replace the door the old man has beaten down. Wesley also is aware of some inherited traits, especially his father’s passionate temper. Failing to experience the rebirth of spirit his father prescribes, Wesley dons his father’s discarded old clothes. Wesley and his mother are the only family members left at the end of the play.
Ella Tate, Wesley’s mother. Coming from a higher-class background, Ella feels like an outsider among the members of her own family. She feels abandoned by her husband and fears that he might try to kill her in one of his drunken rages. Ella insensitively cooks the chicken that her daughter plans to use in an important 4-H project. She also fills her young daughter’s mind with an obsession about germs and with false information about the girl’s physical maturity. Longing for the more prestigious lifestyle of the rich, Ella has become involved with an attorney and plans to sell the property and run away to Europe. After returning from jail to visit her daughter, Ella sleeps on the kitchen table. When she awakes,...
(The entire section is 795 words.)