James Fraser, a North Carolina farm boy, awkward, uncouth, sensitive, and proud. He is ambitious to rise in life. His experience as a railroad worker in Wilmington and his Civil War service, including a long internment as a prisoner of war, mature him. His dedication to his beliefs and his determination to endure life’s hardships enable him to regard himself as humanly equal to those whom he had once looked upon as his superiors. James may be thought of as an illustration of what Thomas Jefferson in a letter to John Adams called a “true aristocrat,” the grounds of whose aristocracy are “virtue and talents.”
Stewart Prevost, a rich planter’s daughter loved by James. Appreciative of his desire to better himself, she offers him money to help him do so. Less conscious than James of the difference in social and financial status between them, she loves him and is willing to marry him.
Colonel Prevost, her father. Although he is courteous and friendly to the Fraser family, he gives the impression that he considers them beneath himself and his daughter, and he at first opposes a continuation of the relationship between Stewart and James. Later, convinced of James’s true worth, he is happy to have Stewart marry a Fraser.
Charles Prevost, Stewart’s brother, a Confederate captain under whom James serves. After Charles is killed, James shoots the killers.