Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 203
The novel’s main character is John Rodman. His job as “keeper” is to tend a large Civil War cemetery; located in the South, the cemetery contains the bodies of dead Union soldiers. Other characters are the people living near the cemetery, especially Ward De Rosset and his fiancée, Bettina Ward.
Rodman, who had served in the Union army for his home state of New Hampshire, has taken the job to make money and out of duty to his fallen comrades. He somewhat naively thinks that the Southern neighbors will be receptive to his presence. Almost all of his interactions with them are negative. He is first rejected but later grudgingly accepted by De Rosset.
De Rosset, a former Confederate soldier, lives in his ancestral home, now decrepit. When he becomes seriously ill and can no longer stay in the home, he moves in with Rodman.
Bettina, devoted to her fiance but unable to meet the demands of caring for him, is antagonistic toward Rodman as a representative of all Northerners. In some ways a stereotypical Southern belle, she also shows her mettle in verbally sparring with Rodman.
Mary is Rodman’s fiance who decides to break off her engagement with him.