Characters

John Wharton Billson
Billson is a Deacon with the nickname "Shadbelly." He is the first of the nineteen claiming ownership of the sack. When Burgess reads his name, the crowd doubts that Billson could have been so generous, shouting: ‘‘Billson! Oh, come, this is too thin! Twenty dollars to a stranger-or anybody-Billson’’; Wilson falsely accuses him of plagiarism.

Reverend Burgess
The letter attached to the sack authorizes Burgess to break the seals of the sack and the enclosed envelope. Unaware that Edward Richards concealed information that could have cleared him of wrongdoing in a previous scandal, Burgess regards Edward as his savior for advising him to leave town. Burgess repays his perceived debt by not announcing Edward's name at the town meeting, which leads everyone to believe that Edward is the only truly honest man in town. After the stranger gives the Richardses the proceeds from the auction, Burgess sends them a note that accounts for his action at the town meeting. On his deathbed, Edward burns Burgess once more, since he confesses that Burgess purposely withheld Edward's name at the town meeting.

Mr. Cox
Mr. Cox is the printer of the town's newspaper. He is the second person to learn about the gold sack when Edward Richards submits the advertisement to him. Cox dutifully forwards the information to the central office, but hurries back to stop it, hoping to keep the money for himself. At the office, he meets Edward, who has the same idea, but they are too late, since the newspaper printing schedules changed that day, and the clerk submitted the information earlier than usual. Like the Richardses, the Coxes argue about the haste with which they decided to publicly advertise the sack, reasoning that had they only waited, they could have quietly kept the money for themselves.

John Wharton Billson
Billson is a Deacon with the nickname "Shadbelly." He is the first of the nineteen claiming ownership of the sack. When Burgess reads his name, the crowd doubts that Billson could have been so generous, shouting: ‘‘Billson! Oh, come, this is too thin! Twenty dollars to a stranger-or anybody-Billson’’; Wilson falsely accuses him of plagiarism.

Reverend Burgess
The letter attached to the sack authorizes Burgess to break the seals of the sack and the enclosed envelope. Unaware that Edward Richards concealed information that could have cleared him of wrongdoing in a previous scandal, Burgess regards Edward as his savior for advising him to leave town. Burgess repays his perceived debt by not announcing Edward's name at the town meeting, which leads everyone to believe that Edward is the only truly honest man in town. After the stranger gives the Richardses the proceeds from the auction, Burgess sends them a note that accounts for his action at the town meeting. On his deathbed, Edward burns Burgess once more, since he confesses that Burgess purposely withheld Edward's name at the town meeting.

Barclay Goodson
At the time the story begins, Barclay Goodson is dead. The town surmises that only Goodson was generous enough to give a stranger twenty dollars. Though he once lived in Hadleyburg, he was not born or raised there. He scandalized the town in the past. Although Mary Richards calls him the "best-hated’’ man in town, Goodson was wrongfully accused of informing Burgess that news of his scandal was about to break. While Goodson generally regarded Hadleyburg as an "honest" town, he also thought it was ‘‘narrow, self-righteous, and stingy.’’ He was supposed to marry Nancy Hewitt, but he broke the engagement at the implicit behest of the community who discovered that she had a ‘‘spoonful of Negro blood.''

Jack Halliday
A minor character, Jack Halliday provides ironic commentary on present events in Hadleyburg. He is described as a ‘‘loafing, good-natured, no-account, irreverent fisherman, hunter, boys' friend, stray-dogs' friend, typical 'Sam Lawson' of the town.’’ According to the narrator, Halliday ‘‘noticed everything.’’ He also guides the reader through the foolish behavior of the town, indicating by humorous conjectures that Deacon Billson was happy because a neighbor broke his leg, and that Gregory Yates rejoiced when his mother-in-law died. His "insider" perspective reveals the town's hypocrisy despite its virtuous reputation. Halliday's observations about town life echo the ironic tone of the omniscient narrator.

Dr. Clay Harkness
"Dr.'' Clay Harkness appears briefly at the end of the story as a charlatan doctor and political candidate. One of the "two rich men'' in...

(The entire section is 1962 words.)