Jennie Gerhardt Characters
by Theodore Dreiser

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Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Genevieve Gerhardt (Jennie)

Genevieve Gerhardt (Jennie), the oldest of six children of a poor, hardworking glass blower in Columbus, Ohio. Both beautiful and innocent, Jennie is forced to work at a local hotel when her father becomes ill; there, she attracts Senator Brander, who stays at the hotel. When Brander helps her family and keeps her brother out of jail for stealing coal from the railroad, Jennie, in gratitude, sleeps with him. At his sudden death, she is left pregnant. She later moves to Cleveland, where she meets Lester Kane. With her family in need again, she goes on a trip to New York with him in return for his help. Lester finds out about Jennie’s daughter and agrees to allow the child to live with them. Jennie realizes that his family’s disapproval of their relationship is harming Lester both financially and socially, and she influences him to leave her. He later marries an old childhood sweetheart. Jennie’s daughter dies, and she adopts two orphan children. Some years later, while his wife is in Europe, Lester has a heart attack and sends for Jennie, who nurses him until his death.

Lester Kane

Lester Kane, the son of a wealthy carriage manufacturer. A weak man, Lester is torn between his desire for social and financial affluence and his feeling for Jennie. He neither marries her nor leaves her, until his father’s will demands that he act within three years. Pursued by Mrs. Gerald, a widow, he finally follows his family’s wishes and leaves Jennie with a generous settlement.

William Gerhardt

William Gerhardt, Jennie’s father, a poor glass blower. After his wife dies and his children grow up, he lives with Jennie, the daughter of whom he disapproved but who is ultimately kindest to him. He dies in Chicago.

George Sylvester Brander

George Sylvester Brander, a senator from Ohio. A bachelor, he intends to marry Jennie but dies of a heart attack.

Wilhelmina Vesta

Wilhelmina Vesta, Jennie’s daughter by Senator Brander; she dies of typhoid fever at the age of fourteen.

Mrs. Letty Pace Gerald

Mrs. Letty Pace Gerald, a wealthy widow and childhood sweetheart of Lester Kane. Lester finally marries her but is not happy.

Mrs. Gerhardt

Mrs. Gerhardt, Jennie’s mother, hardworking and sympathetic. She dies in Cleveland before Jennie moves to Chicago.

Robert Kane

Robert Kane, Lester’s older brother, vice president of the carriage company. A ruthless financier interested only in power, he influences his father to make the will that cripples Lester.

Archibald Kane

Archibald Kane,...

(The entire section is 640 words.)