Lavinia Mannon, the daughter of Christine and Ezra Mannon. Tall, flat-breasted, angular, and imperious in manner, Lavinia is fond of her father and fiercely jealous of her mother. While Ezra was fighting in the Civil War, Christine had an affair with Captain Adam Brant. Unconscious desire to have Adam for herself leads Lavinia to demand that Christine give up Adam or face a scandal that would ruin the family name. Unable to go on living with a husband she despises, Christine plots with Adam to poison Ezra when he returns. Ezra is murdered, and Lavinia discovers her mother’s guilt. When her brother Orin returns, wounded and distraught, from the war, Lavinia tries to enlist his aid in avenging their father’s death. Orin refuses until Lavinia proves Christine’s guilt by a ruse. Blaming Adam for the murder, Orin goes to Adam’s ship and shoots him. When Orin reveals to Christine what he has done, she kills herself. Orin and Lavinia then close the Mannon house and voyage to the South Seas. Symbolically liberated from the repressiveness of the New England Puritan tradition, Lavinia blossoms into a duplicate of her voluptuous mother. She plans to marry and start a new life. Orin, hounded by his guilt and going mad, threatens to reveal the Mannons’ misdeeds and tries to extort from Lavinia a lover’s promise never to leave him. Lavinia agrees but ruthlessly drives Orin to suicide. Now convinced that the Mannon blood is tainted with evil, she resolves to punish herself for the Mannons’ guilt. She orders the house shuttered and withdraws into it forever.
Christine Mannon, Lavinia’s mother, tall, beautiful, and sensual. Fearing that she will be killed or arrested for her husband’s murder, she makes plans with Adam Brant to flee the country and sail for a “happy island.” When Orin taunts her with his murder of Adam, Christine goes into the Mannon house and shoots herself.
Orin Mannon, Lavinia’s brother, a young idealist who has been spiritually destroyed by the war. Progressively degenerating under the burden of his guilt, Orin conceives that Lavinia has taken the place of his beloved mother. Resolved that Lavinia shall never forget what they have done, Orin writes a history of the Mannon family and uses the manuscript to force Lavinia...
(The entire section is 792 words.)