Rosacoke Mustian, a woman about twenty years old who must make important decisions when she discovers that she is pregnant. The father of the child, Wesley Beavers, has offered to marry her, but she fears the very thought of childbirth because her friend, Mildred Sutton, died during the birth of her child Sledge. Rosacoke’s participation in the church Christmas pageant as the Virgin Mary reassures her and gives her the strength to determine her future. She decides to marry Wesley.
Wesley Beavers, Rosacoke’s boyfriend and the father of the child she is carrying. Wesley, who is twenty-four years old, has been seeing Rosacoke for three years, all the while sleeping with other women. It is not until he learns of her pregnancy that he decides to settle down and marry her, more out of a sense of honor than because he loves her.
Emma Mustian, Rosacoke’s mother. A widow who has survived many ordeals, she serves as a role model for her daughter.
Milo Mustian, Rosacoke’s older brother. The death of Milo’s son Horatio Mustian II also gives Rosacoke pause when she contemplates motherhood.
Sissie Mustian, Milo’s wife. As the mother of four children who is carrying her fifth, Horatio Mustian II, she offers a model of what Rosacoke might expect if she marries Wesley.
Horatio (Rato) Mustian
Horatio (Rato) Mustian, Rosacoke’s younger brother, a private in the Army. Like his deceased father, he appears to have little religion and few morals. He goes home shortly before Christmas to relate his experiences in the military. While in the Army, he forgets how to pray.
Mildred Sutton, Rosacoke’s African American friend. Like Rosacoke, she became pregnant out of wedlock. She died giving birth to her son Sledge before the opening of the novel.
Sledge Sutton, Mildred’s child, the son of Sammy Ransom.
Isaac Alston, the oldest member of the community.
Horatio Mustian II
Horatio Mustian II, Milo’s child, who dies.
Landon is a helpless man who is addicted to paregoric, a tincture of opium. He has no toes because once, long ago, he fell asleep in a road one Christmas and they fell off. On the day of Mildred’s funeral, he is found sleeping in the church. On the day of the Christmas pageant, Rosacoke finds him stealing decorations from the church, which he explains are for his sister, Mary, who is Mildred’s mother and is raising her baby, Sledge. Mary promised to give him a hot meal if he would bring her Christmas greens. Landon’s name is brought up during the Christmas pageant when Rosacoke smells paregoric on the breath of the baby, Frederick, and realizes that it is being used to keep him narcotized.
Mr. Isaac Alston
“Mr. Isaac,” as he is called, is the rich landowner whom the people in Rosacoke’s life look up to. The forest around them is referred to as “Mr. Isaac’s forest,” implying that nature belongs to him, making him godlike. He is eighty-two years old and has lost most of his mental faculties due to a series of strokes. His one interest in life is horehound candy. The people in the county look to Mr. Isaac as a trusted benefactor: for instance, when Rosacoke’s father died, Mr. Isaac came to the house and gave her mother fifty dollars. As a measure of their esteem, they all pitch in together to buy him a new wheelchair, even though Sammy, who takes care of Mr. Isaac, tells them that he probably would not appreciate the gesture because he is so mentally unaware.
Willie Duke Aycock
A local beauty pageant winner—she won a Dairy Queen Contest the previous summer—Willie Duke has had a crush on Wesley Beavers for a long time. She goes to Norfolk when he does because she has a job curling hair, causing Rosacoke to assume that they are having an affair until she comes home a little later with a new boyfriend, Heywood Betts. Soon after, she and Heywood go to Florida to be married.
Wesley is the...
(The entire section is 1,946 words.)