Bruce Dudley, born John Stockton, who revolts against the rational sterility that characterizes modern technological society. Dudley wanders around the country taking various jobs. He travels from Chicago to New Orleans to Old Harbor, Indiana, the town where he grew up. He is a reporter, an auto worker, a gardener. His love affair with Aline Grey, as well as his flight with Aline toward an unknown destination, are for Anderson facets of the conduct to be expected of two people who love each other but who are unable to reconcile their values with a society dedicated only to material manipulation and acquisition.
Aline Grey, the unhappy wife of an automobile factory owner. She is attracted to Dudley and encourages his love, though she knows her behavior is likely to cause comment in the small Indiana town where she lives. Her affair with Dudley ruins her husband’s life.
Fred Grey, practically an Anderson symbol for blind devotion to technology. Grey is incapable of dealing with any situation that depends for its resolution on a knowledge of human nature. When Dudley and Aline leave, Grey becomes completely confused. Not knowing whether to use a revolver on himself, on Dudley and Aline, or simply on Dudley, he fires a wild shot into the river. Confused, desperate, ineffectual in the knowledge of his wife’s desertion, Grey is scorned by the easy laughter of some uneducated domestics, for whom his problem is childishly simple.
Sponge Martin, a worker in the Grey factory. He loves the simple things: fishing, sipping moonshine whiskey, making love to his carefree wife. Martin is used in the novel to lend authority to Dudley and Aline’s love affair.
Rose Frank, an acquaintance of Aline. It was at Rose’s apartment in Paris, just after World War I, that Aline met a man she wanted in much the same way she was to want Dudley years later in Old Harbor.
Sherwood Anderson 's characters are generally "unpretentious people" whose apparently simple lives stand in contrast to the philosophical complexity of their existence. Aline and Dudley are dreamers who each are disappointed with their attempts to break out of the ordinary. Dudley's reporting career seemed like a dead-end job, and he was willing to abandon the possibility of excitement in Chicago to return to the routine existence in Old Harbor. Aline is restless, and...
(The entire section is 614 words.)