Last Updated on May 7, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 459
Julia Shane, a wealthy widow, a cynical, proud, stubborn woman who feels separated from both her worldly older daughter and her neurotically religious younger daughter. A Scotch Presbyterian, she scorns Irene’s piousness and her desire to be a nun, though in her will she leaves Irene free to make her own choice. In her declining years, Julia spends much of her time recalling the past and reading French novels.
Lily Shane, her older daughter, tall and lovely, with honey-colored hair. She refuses the governor despite his offer to marry her to prevent a scandal, and she later rejects Willie. Lily lives in Paris for ten years before her mother’s death, which occurs while Lily is back home on a visit. She returns to Paris, takes a lover, and finally marries a French diplomat, M. de Cyon.
Irene Shane, Julia’s frail, blond younger daughter, a pious, introverted teacher of mill hands. After her mother’s death, she becomes a Carmelite nun named Sister Monica.
The Governor, a vulgar politician twenty years older than Lily and the father of her son. After Lily’s rejection of him, he marries the plain, sturdy daughter of a manufacturer.
Hattie Tolliver, Julia’s niece, who cares for Julia during the long illness that ends in her death.
Ellen Tolliver, Hattie’s daughter, a talented pianist who marries a traveling salesman, studies music in Paris, and becomes a noted pianist under the name of Lilli Barr.
M. de Cyon
M. de Cyon, Lily’s husband, a dignified French diplomat several years her senior.
William (Willie) Harrison
William (Willie) Harrison, a millionaire steel mill owner, a mother-dominated young man who wishes to marry Lily. He increasingly resents his mother’s bullying and after her stroke longs for her death.
Mrs. Julis Harrison
Mrs. Julis Harrison, Willie’s dictatorial mother, who suspects the reason for Lily’s leaving her hometown.
Madame Gigon, a widow with whom Lily lives in Paris; she dies during the war.
Judge Weissman, a political boss whose Jewishness revolts Julia.
John Shane, Julia’s husband, a wealthy man of unknown background who was a political boss until he died of apoplexy.
Jean, the son of Lily and the Governor; he is wounded in the war.
Stepan Krylenko, a big, burly young Ukrainian strike leader. He is befriended by Irene. After he is shot by a mill guard at a strikers’ meeting, he is hidden by Lily. He later becomes an international labor leader and dies of typhus in Moscow.
The Baron, Lily’s lover, a cousin of Madame Gigon. He is killed in the war.
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