Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 397
Charles "Chick" Mallison
Charles Mallison, known as Chick, is a sixteen-year-old white boy. A winter accident leads to his rescue by a black man, Lucas Beauchamp, who takes Chick to his home. Chick continues to feel shame over having an unpaid debt to Lucas, who is accused of murder four years later.
Chick's compassion for Beauchamp is mixed with his impatience at the elderly man's refusal to kowtow to whites. Much of the novel is concerned with Chick's efforts to help prove the elderly man's innocence—even if it means digging up a corpse—and keeping him from being lynched by the victim's relatives. Chick therefore learns that a debt is not easily repaid.
Lucas Beauchamp is an elderly African American man who rescues Chick Mallison before the events of the novel take place. As one of his forebears was a white plantation owner, he is distantly related to the Mallisons. Beauchamp is erroneously accused of murdering a poor white man named Vinson Gowrie. He is ultimately exonerated, thanks in part to Chick's assistance. His pride and unwillingness to be in debt to the young man compels him to match every effort Chick makes at repayment.
Gavin Stevens is Chick's uncle. Although he passionately supports justice, he is initially unconvinced that it could be secured for a black man in Mississippi. Won over by the urging of Chick and Miss Habersham, he overcomes his initial reluctance and serves as Beauchamp's defense attorney.
Aleck Sander, an African American boy, is one of Chick's friends. He participates in the quest for justice for Beauchamp.
Miss Habersham, a 70-year-old white woman from an elite family, grew up with Lucas's wife, Molly, who had died before the events of the novel take place. Molly's mother had been Miss Habersham's wet-nurse and raised the girls together. She works with Chick and Aleck on Lucas's behalf, including helping to persuade Gavin to take the case.
Crawford Gowrie is the actual murderer—both of his own brother, Vinson, and of Jake Montgomery, who had knowledge of Crawford's reasons for the crime. Crawford's mix-up of their corpses provides crucial evidence to exonerate Beauchamp. He kills himself in jail.
Hope Hampton is the sheriff whom the boys persuade to reconsider the evidence after finding Montgomery in Vinson's coffin when they dig up the grave.
Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 253
Charles (Chick) Mallison
Charles (Chick) Mallison, a sixteen-year-old boy. While hunting with two companions, he falls through the ice and is taken home by an old black man, Lucas Beauchamp, to dry out and have some food. All offers of payment are refused by Lucas, leaving Chick with an unpaid obligation on his conscience. When Lucas is accused of murder, Chick goes to the old man’s assistance and helps to prove his innocence. He feels himself free of his debt until Lucas appears and insists on paying for services rendered.
Lucas Beauchamp, an old black man. When he takes Chick Mallison home after an accident, he proudly refuses payment for his hospitality and puts the boy in his debt. Later, when Lucas is falsely accused of murder, he is assisted by Chick, who believes he has evened the score until the old man comes to pay for services rendered. When Lucas’ two dollars are accepted for “expenses,” he demands a receipt.
Gavin Stevens, Chick Mallison’s uncle and the lawyer for Lucas Beauchamp.
Aleck Sander, Chick Mallison’s young black friend and companion in his efforts to prove Lucas Beauchamp’s innocence.
Miss Habersham, an old woman of good family who assists Chick Mallison and Aleck Sander in their efforts on behalf of Lucas Beauchamp.
Hope Hampton, the sheriff.
Crawford Gowrie, the murderer, the proof of whose guilt saves the falsely accused Lucas Beauchamp from the violence of a mob.