(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

As readers uncover the motives, desires, and faults of the characters, the gap between "the facts" related in the initial newspaper account and the "truth" from various perspectives becomes apparent. Although one might easily discern who killed whom, the blame of who is at fault is less clear. In one way or another, the whole cast of characters implicate themselves in wrongdoings.

Mary and Dick Turner are completely mismatched, unable to understand one another's actions and motives. After an unhappy childhood, Mary is not prepared for marriage but feels society's pressure to find a mate. Dick, idealistically dreaming of a wife and children to accompany life on the farm, marries Mary just as blindly. Mary's discomfort and disdain for the physical hardships on the farm, however, dampen Dick's pride in roughing it to maintain one's own land.

Unhappy to the point of leaving, Mary flees to the city, but Dick goes to find her out of obligation as a husband rather than love for her. From the point of his taking her back home to the farm Mary exhibits resignation and a physical exhaustion brought on by depression. As Mary and Dick's relationship disintegrates, Mary's sexual behavior with other men intensifies, and her husband only attempts to ignore it. That Dick does not confront Mary as she does him indicates the lack of respect that she develops for him and he develops for himself.

The Turners do not assimilate with the neighbors, foreshadowing a disastrous end to their attempts at farming. Before the reader is even introduced to the consciousness of Mary Turner, the narrator's exploration of the newspaper article asks:

Who was Charlie Slatter? It was he who, from the beginning of the tragedy to its end, personified Society for the Turners. He touches the story at half a dozen points; without him things would...

(The entire section is 764 words.)