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Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 307

There are eight characters in this play.

In one family group, we have Jake, brother to Frankie and Sally, son of Lorraine . Lorraine explains at one point that Jake was dropped on his head as an infant, and it is possible that some of his mental challenges...

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There are eight characters in this play.

In one family group, we have Jake, brother to Frankie and Sally, son of Lorraine. Lorraine explains at one point that Jake was dropped on his head as an infant, and it is possible that some of his mental challenges are the result of this accident. He's lived a violent life: kicking a goat so hard as a child that it broke his foot and her ribs (according to Frankie), masterminding the murder of his drunken father in Mexico (according to Sally), and then beating his wife, Beth, so hard that it actually causes brain damage. In fact, he believes her to be dead when the play opens. Frankie is the one who seems to look out the most for his brother, and he constantly tries to help him; in fact, he will likely die of septicemia as a result of his trying to help Jake by reassuring him that Beth is not dead (he is accidentally shot by Baylor when trying to check on Beth). Lorraine obviously prefers her sons to her daughter, and she isn't very kind to Sally, at least until the end, when the two of them decide to run off to Ireland together and leave everything at home behind.

In another family group we have Beth—who is Jake's wife, sister of Mike, and daughter of Baylor and Meg. Beth sustains major brain damage from Jake's beating, and Mike tries to help in her recovery. Mike hates Jake and Frankie, for obvious reasons. Baylor is an angry man who feels that he's wasted his life taking care of "feeble-minded women," and Meg seems to have some kind of mental illness (as did her mother, a fact to which several characters allude). None of them seems particularly well-equipped to deal with what has happened to Beth.

Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 663


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 answer Frankie’s questions.


Sally, Jake’s younger sister, who refuses to live in the same house with him and so leaves when Frankie brings Jake to the farm. She is bothered by Jake’s lack of responsibility for his actions and refuses to become a part of a scheme to keep him out of trouble for beating Beth. She has protected Jake from the blame in their father’s death, but she refuses to protect him again.


Lorraine, Jake’s mother. She mothers him more than she mothers her other children. She works to deny any blame for Jake and even goes as far as suggesting that he find another woman and forget about Beth. Her solution to Jake’s troubles is the same one to which she was subjected by Jake’s alcoholic father, who packed up when trouble arose; thus, she is helping to continue and condone a cycle of abuse.


Baylor, Beth’s father. He is a man concerned about himself, not his family. His refusal to attend Beth’s wedding and the shack in which he lives during deer season are symbols of his self-absorption. He has few kind words for his wife or his children and views the trip to see Beth in the hospital as a good chance to sell mules.


Meg, Beth’s mother, a woman whose attempts to understand Baylor’s withdrawal from her and from their family have drained her of any desire to make sense of the world. Instead, she tries to block out unpleasant events. She is forced, however, to deal with her daughter’s injuries in a somewhat productive manner. Meg is, in many ways, more of an invalid than is Beth.


Mike, a young man whose desire to protect his sister from any more harm consumes him. He blames not only Jake for Beth’s injuries but also Jake’s entire family. When Frankie arrives seeking information about Beth’s condition, Mike threatens Frankie. The violence lurking in Mike is later used to subdue and torture Jake when he arrives, although Mike later releases Jake when he realizes that no member of his family is taking much notice of the defense of the family’s honor that he has undertaken.

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