Nancy Shedman, a young, naïve, backwoods Southern woman. She has been married less than a year to an abusive man, Coleman Shedman. After being assaulted by him, Nancy encounters a snake-handling religious cult run by Obediah Senior. Having nowhere to turn and swept away by the church’s fanaticism, she decides to leave her husband, take half of the property, and marry the preacher. Nancy begins to waver after learning that she would become the man’s seventh wife. Weakening, she is almost ready to return to Coleman until, in an outburst of rage, he strikes her. During the hysteria of the snake-handling ceremony, Nancy remains aloof. She decides that the lifestyle is not right for her at this time and decides to attend a business school in town.
Coleman Hannibal Shedman, Junior
Coleman Hannibal Shedman, Junior, Nancy’s jealous, coarse, and abusive young husband. He is the owner/manager of Shedman’s Fish Farm, which he inherited from his father. Accompanied by a divorce attorney, he caustically accuses Nancy of infidelity and theft. Coleman is anti-Christian and is appalled that his wife has been sucked in by religious charlatans. During the church service, he curses and attacks the minister and flaunts his sexual knowledge of Nancy. He pleads with Nancy to come back to him, but during his pledge to change, he loses his temper and strikes her. In an attempt to blaspheme the religion, he defiantly partakes in the snake-handling ceremony, only to become a full-fledged convert.
Rogers Canfield, an elderly lawyer with a heart condition. He is a widower living with his unwed daughter. He emerges from retirement to handle Coleman’s divorce suit. He is an unshaven, unkempt diplomat who immediately warms up to Nancy. While at the church service, Canfield becomes enamored of Bonnie, causing him to make a fervent commitment to the cult and to resign from Coleman’s case.
Reverend Obediah Buckhorn, Senior
Reverend Obediah Buckhorn, Senior (oh-beh-
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