Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 783
Isaac McCaslin (Uncle Ike)
Isaac McCaslin (Uncle Ike), the grandson of Lucius Quintus Carothers McCaslin and heir to his plantation. Isaac, whose father dies while he is young, has two father figures: Sam Fathers, once a slave of Isaac’s grandfather, and Cass Edmonds, a cousin sixteen years his elder. Sam Fathers teaches Isaac to hunt and to appreciate nature. As a child, Isaac longs for his tenth birthday, when he will be old enough to go on hunting trips to the wilderness. When Isaac turns twenty-one, he tells Cass that he is relinquishing his patrimony. He argues with Cass, who has been handling the responsibilities of the land, saying that no one should own land. Isaac’s objections run deeper: At the age of sixteen, he read the commissary ledgers that reveal his grandfather’s sexual relationship with Eunice and Tomasina, both slaves. He believes he must relinquish his patrimony in order to be free of the miscegenation, the incest, and the repudiation of black family members. Isaac leaves the plantation and lives an ascetic life in Jefferson as a carpenter. He continues to hunt with the men who took him to the wilderness, and as he ages, he continues that relationship with their sons and grandsons. Isaac marries, but the marriage is barren and unsuccessful because his wife cannot forgive him for not accepting his birthright.
Lucas Beauchamp, the grandson and great-grandson of Lucius Quintus Carothers McCaslin, descended through McCaslin slaves. He is allotted $1,000 at the age of twenty-one, which allows him to leave the land if he wants to begin a life elsewhere. The money is left to him by Isaac’s father and twin brother, who decided to multiply the $1,000 legacy the original McCaslin left to his own son Turl, Lucas’ father, who refused the legacy. As soon as Lucas turns twenty-one, he demands not only his $1,000 but also the same sum left to his brother James, who left the McCaslin land without it. Lucas marries Mollie, a city woman. Cass provides him with a house and acres of land to farm, and Lucas rears his family there. Throughout his time on the land, he refuses to accede to demands made on him by any of the Edmondses as they oversee the land. He is proud of his McCaslin blood.
Carothers (Cass) McCaslin Edmonds
Carothers (Cass) McCaslin Edmonds, the great-grandson of Lucius Quintus Carothers McCaslin, descended through his daughter. Cass, like Isaac, is introduced to the wilderness by Sam Fathers. He oversees the McCaslin land while Isaac is too young and inherits it when Isaac relinquishes it. He is a father figure to Isaac, but they quarrel when Isaac relinquishes his patrimony. Cass believes it is Isaac’s responsibility to take over the family land despite whatever sins Isaac sees as coming with it. Cass argues that one cannot give up responsibilities but must discharge them.
Theophilus McCaslin (Uncle Buck), Isaac’s father. He and his twin brother Amodeus (Uncle Buddy) move the McCaslin slaves into the plantation house after their father’s death in 1837 and triple the legacy their father left to his son Turl by providing $1,000 to each of Turl’s children.
Sam Fathers, who was sold with his mother as a slave to Lucius Quintus Carothers McCaslin. He is part Indian, part black, and part white; he associates most with his Indian heritage. He is Isaac and Cass’s mentor, teaching them regard for the land and all the creatures on it. He teaches Isaac to hunt and is with him when he kills his first deer. Sam Fathers lives as a blacksmith on the McCaslin land until Isaac is nine, then moves to the Big Bottom, where the McCaslin family hunts.
Zachary (Zack) Edmonds
Zachary (Zack) Edmonds, Cass’s son and Lucas’ contemporary. He is reared on the land with Lucas, and when young they are almost like brothers. By the time Zack inherits the McCaslin land, he treats Lucas as an inferior rather than as a brother. When Zack’s wife dies in childbirth, he appropriates Mollie, Lucas’ wife, to care for his infant son. Eventually, Lucas demands Mollie’s return. Zack complies, seemingly never before having considered the injustice done to Lucas.
Carothers (Roth) Edmonds
Carothers (Roth) Edmonds, Zack’s son. He and Lucas Beauchamp’s son Henry are reared as brothers until, at the age of seven, Roth decides that as a white boy he is superior to his black friend and relative. Years later, Roth, a bachelor in his forties, refuses to recognize a son he has by a member of the Beauchamp family. He is a cynical voice repudiating Isaac’s more optimistic one.
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"Go Down, Moses - Characters Discussed" Great Characters in Literature Ed. A. J. Sobczak and Frank N. Magill. eNotes.com, Inc. 1998 eNotes.com 15 Aug. 2022 <https://www.enotes.com/topics/go-down-moses/characters#characters-characters-discussed>
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