The Fruit of the Tree Characters
by Edith Wharton

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Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

John Amherst

John Amherst, an assistant mill manager. Concerned with the low standard of working conditions at the mill, he endeavors to convince Bessy Westmore, the owner, of the necessity for improvement. Impressed by her apparent interest in the project, he marries her, only to be disillusioned by her unwillingness to make any sacrifice in the cause. On her death, he marries Justine Brent.

Bessy Westmore

Bessy Westmore, a mill owner and John Amherst’s first wife. Selfish and self-indulgent, she disillusions her husband by her lack of interest in the working conditions at the mill. She is paralyzed by an injury and dies of an overdose of morphine she has begged from her nurse, Justine Brent.

Justine Brent

Justine Brent, the nurse who becomes John Amherst’s second wife. As a companion to Bessy Westmore, she nurses Bessy after she is paralyzed by an accident. She gives in to her patient’s pleading for release from pain and administers an overdose of morphine, an act that is to plague her life as John Amherst’s wife.

Dr. Wyant

Dr. Wyant, Bessy Westmore’s physician, who guesses the truth about her death and uses the knowledge to blackmail Justine Brent.

Mr. Langhope

Mr. Langhope, Bessy Westmore’s father.

Cicely Westmore

Cicely Westmore, Bessy Westmore’s daughter.


Dillon, a millhand whose injury brings to the fore the miserable working conditions at the mill.

Mrs. Harry Dressel

Mrs. Harry Dressel, a friend of Justine Brent.