Beverley Lacey, the proprietor of the Seven Stars coal mine in Lacey Creek, West Virginia, and descendant of the family that originally settled and controlled this entire mining district. During his lifetime, he has seen his family give up first the mineral rights and then the land itself to wealthy entrepreneurs who in turn have remitted it to faceless corporations and holding companies. He has also seen the relationship between owner and laborer deteriorate from cooperative to adversarial. He has been broken by the process, physically and emotionally. Although merely forty-two years old, he is on his deathbed; he will not survive the year. He also believes that he has failed his wife and family; he has not maintained the aristocratic ideals that he inherited from his parents, and he fears that his family members will not be able to protect themselves in this altered world after his death. Furthermore, he is aware of both the injustice inflicted on the mine workers by the managerial class and the propaganda manipulation of the union organizers. Although he would like to rise above the pettiness and stupidity of what he perceives as a staged conflict, he feels compelled to install a Gatling gun on his front porch to protect his family. Worst of all, he feels intensely about nothing.
Ann Eldridge Lacey
Ann Eldridge Lacey, Beverley’s wife, around forty years old. From a relatively common background, she “married up” when she wed Beverley, and she is determined to maintain the family eminence, even when everything is crumbling around her and her dreams of grandeur are evaporating. She attempts this task by bullying Beverley into taking stands on preserving the status quo. Because these stands are basically ineffectual, he resents her interference and has withdrawn from her emotionally. To compensate, she has developed migraines that she doses with laudanum. She is aware that her husband is dying, although he has not told her so, and she is desperate to secure her future and that of her daughters.
Lily Lacey, who at nineteen years of age is the eldest daughter of Beverley and Ann. Idealistic and intellectual, she commits herself completely to the concept of social reform and the elevation of the working class. This makes her see everything as either black or white and people as either heroes or villains. For example, as a typical gesture she “adopts” one of the sons of a family of migrant Italian laborers, a young man her own age but lacking her privileges. She is determined to compensate for his disadvantages by educating him herself: She reads her textbooks from Vassar to him every day of her vacation. Well versed in her ideas of the evils of capitalism, she attempts to join the...
(The entire section is 1158 words.)