Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 577
Alwyn Tower, a young boy deeply interested in the history of his family. He pours over the family albums and pieces together his relatives’ stories.
Henry Tower, Alwyn’s grandfather. He came to Wisconsin from New York planning, but failing, to become rich. His first and dearly loved wife dies, leaving a baby boy. He marries again to give the child a mother. After the boy dies, Henry loses interest in life, though he has many other children. In his old age, his chief interest is his new garden. He lives to be eighty-two, but to Alwyn he never seems completely alive.
Serena Cannon, Henry’s first wife, who dies of a fever.
Rose Hamilton, Henry’s second wife, Alwyn’s grandmother. Jilted by Henry’s brother, her one true love, she marries Henry and gives him many children. She too never seems completely alive to Alwyn, though she appears resigned and not unhappy.
Leander Tower, Henry’s brother. Returning from the Civil War, he no longer wants to marry Rose, and he goes to California. Later he returns to Wisconsin. Rose, though she still loves him, remains true to Henry.
Hilary Tower, the younger brother of Leander and Henry. He disappeared in the war, and Leander seems always to be looking for a substitute for him. Old Leander seems happy only when helping a young boy.
Nancy Tower, Alwyn’s great-aunt, insane for part of her life.
Mary Harris, another great-aunt whose first husband was killed by Southerners because he was a Northern sympathizer. Her second husband was a drunken sot; often she had to beg for food to stay alive. With her third husband, one of the Tower men, she knows happiness and prosperity for the first time.
Jim Tower, Alwyn’s uncle, the son of Henry and Rose. A minister who married a rich woman, he lives in Chicago and has been persuaded by his wife to give up preaching. Living with him and his wife in Chicago, Alwyn gets his only chance for a good education. After his wife’s death, Jim goes on living with and humoring the whims of his mother-in-law and his sisters-in-law. Alwyn likes but does not admire Jim.
Evan Tower, Alwyn’s uncle, another son of Henry and Rose. He was a deserter from the Spanish-American War who went west under a different name. He comes home sometimes to see his father, but relations between them are so strained that on his last visit, the old man refuses to enter the house while Evan is there.
Flora Tower, Alwyn’s aunt, the daughter of Henry and Rose. Afraid of being awakened to love, she refuses to marry. Having nothing to fear from her young nephew, she loves him wholeheartedly. She dies at twenty-nine, appearing to Alwyn happy as she draws her last breath.
Ralph Tower, Alwyn’s father, another son of Henry and Rose. He wanted to be a veterinarian, but Jim was the one chosen to be educated. Ralph, resigned rather than bitter, takes over his father’s farm.
Marianne Tower, Ralph’s wife and Alwyn’s mother. Her parents hated each other, and Marianne was lonely until she met Ralph. Their marriage is completely happy; they love each other so much that Alwyn is sometimes embarrassed to see them together.
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