Nine Unnamed Men from the town of Ruby—they are the figures around whom Chapter One centers.
Morgan—the ironmonger (blacksmith) who contributes his nails to the Oven at the founding of the town of Haven.
Ossie—a citizen of Haven who had once organized a horse race as part of a town celebration and picnic.
Ruby—the woman after whom the town of Ruby was named. She was the mother of the youngest of the nine men, the aunt of the twins.
Mavis Albright—a housewife in Maryland whose baby twins have suffocated in a parked car; she is 27 years old.
Frank Albright—Mavis’ husband.
Sal—Mavis and Frank’s daughter, the eldest of their children.
Frankie and Billy James—Mavis and Frank’s two sons.
Merle and Pearl—Mavis and Frank’s deceased twins.
June—the journalist who interviews Mavis and her children.
Birdie Goodroe—Mavis’ mother.
Dusty—the first of the hitchhikers Mavis picks up on her way West.
Bennie—the last of the hitchhikers that Mavis picks up.
Connie—a woman who takes Mavis in at the Convent. Connie reappears as Consolata later in the novel.
Soane Morgan (nee Blackhorse)—a rather formal, well-to-do woman who comes to the Convent to pick up pecans and some other mystery item. She is married to Deacon Morgan.
Soane Morgan’s son—an unnamed young man who gives Mavis a ride to the local gas station.
Mother—a very old woman in the Convent who seems to be one of the former nuns. Her full name is Mary Magna.
Gigi (Grace)—an outsider who comes to Ruby and goes to the Convent.
K. D.—The nephew of Deek and Steward Morgan, and the nephew written about in the first chapter.
Good and Ben—the two dogs K. D. tends.
Arnette Fleetwood—a young woman who has been keeping company with K. D. She is fifteen and pregnant.
Billie Delia—Arnette’s friend.
Deacon (Deek) Morgan—the more reserved and subtle of the two Morgan brothers.
Steward Morgan—the more outspoken of the two Morgan brothers.
Arnold Fleetwood—Arnette’s father, and one of the leading men in Haven.
Mabel Fleetwood—Arnold’s wife, a woman whose people played an important role in the histories of both Haven and Ruby.
Jeff Fleetwood—Arnold’s son and Arnette’s brother. Jeff and his wife,...
(The entire section is 1021 words.)
The stern voices of Morrison’s two protagonists, Deacon and Steward Morgan, set the novel’s tone. Inheriting the patriarchal leadership of Ruby by virtue of their wealth and bloodline, the two men rule over money, property, and ultimately the moral sanctity of Ruby’s history. Insisting on a hard respect for an ethic of hard work, strength, and moral purity, they control of the town. Morrison uses their characters to resonate the voices of the past and emphasize the town’s lack of its own voice for the present world. Anything that threatens to dishonor the town’s ancestral covenant is condemned by one of the twins. Although they publicly inveigh against the sins of the flesh, however, both twins have privately violated the ethic that they so stringently guard. Their self-righteousness and the evil they do to maintain it is the catalyst for other Ruby men who lack the nerve to act. Their wives, Soane and Dovey, likewise epitomize the meek submission of the Ruby women to their men.
Consolata, who has been at the Convent since nuns rescued her from poverty in Brazil, presides over the company of bruised women at the Convent, which is still a respite for orphaned souls and wounded spirits. First comes Mavis, who has inadvertently allowed her babies to suffocate in a hot parked car. Driven to a private madness, she steals her husband’s car and flees. Grace, the next to arrive at the Convent, comes to town in sleazy glory, arousing the lust of...
(The entire section is 582 words.)