Pierre Glendinning, a wealthy young easterner of the early nineteenth century. When he claims his half sister as his wife in order to shield her from the world, his decision causes him to lose his inheritance, his fiancée, and eventually his life. Having shot and killed a male cousin, he is sent to prison. During a visit from his fiancée and his half sister, he swallows poison and dies.
Isabel, Pierre’s half sister, the illegitimate daughter of an alliance Pierre’s father had with a young French woman. Her love for Pierre is not the typical love of a sister for a brother. She is jealous of the attention he pays another woman, and finally, after Pierre has taken his life by poison, she kills herself by drinking from the vial he had used.
Lucy Tartan, Pierre’s fiancée. Though she has wealth and many friends, she follows Pierre and Isabel to New York to live with them and earn her living by painting portraits. When Pierre tells her, during the prison scene, that Isabel is his half sister and not his wife, Lucy dies of shock.
Mrs. Glendinning, Pierre’s mother, a proud woman who is jealous of her influence over her son. Because Pierre claims Isabel as his wife, she drives him from home and, at her death, cuts him off without a cent.
Glen Stanly, Pierre’s cousin, the relative to whom Mrs. Glendinning leaves the family fortune. Stanly is in love with Lucy. In concert with Lucy’s brother, he provokes Pierre, with whom Lucy is now living. Pierre shoots and kills him during a fight.
Delly Ulver, an illegitimate farm girl befriended by Isabel and Pierre. She becomes their servant.