Jake, the violent and jealous husband of Beth. This combination of traits has kept him in trouble with the law and with his wife’s family. He has come to his brother, Frankie, for help after beating his wife—as he believes, to death—because of an affair he assumes Beth to have had while taking part in a community play. Jake tries to avoid responsibility for his actions by pretending to be insane, a ruse seen through by his sister Sally, who helped Jake use the same tactic to escape blame in the death of their father. Jake is not mentally stable, and his psychological condition deteriorates quickly as a result of his mother’s care and of tracking Frankie to Beth’s family’s farm in Montana, where Jake believes his brother to be stealing his wife.
Beth, Jake’s wife, a pretty young woman whose brain has been damaged by the brutal beating inflicted on her by Jake, who left her for dead. She is recovering physically, but she functions mentally like a child. She has moments when she is disturbingly lucid. Following Frankie’s arrival at the farm, Beth transfers her love for Jake onto Frankie.
Frankie, Jake’s younger brother, who, because of his concern for Beth, has gone to her family’s farm in Montana to corroborate Jake’s story of having killed Beth. While trying to get around Mike’s guarding of Beth, Frankie is mistaken for a deer and shot in the leg by Baylor, Beth’s father. Because Baylor does not want the sheriff to know of the shooting, Frankie’s wound is not treated by anyone but Beth, who tries to...
(The entire section is 663 words.)