Ma, a widowed, eccentric settler in French Indochina who has struggled for seven years to make a worthless tract of coastal land profitable amid the annual assaults of the Pacific Ocean. Much of her strength, resolve, and sanity was broken when her attempt to build a wall to hold back the sea failed. Following the collapse of the dikes, Ma’s life has been a routine of planting rice in vain and finding some person, object, or institution on which to place the blame for her misfortunes. Ma’s hope lies in her two children. She worships her son, Joseph, and continually entertains the dream that one day she will be able to marry her daughter, Suzanne, to a wealthy planter. That wish comes nearest to being realized in the person of Monsieur Jo, the son of a wealthy planter who wishes to take Suzanne as his mistress.
Joseph, Ma’s idle, angry, twenty-year-old son, whose one desire is to find a way off the plain. There exists a strong bond between Joseph and Suzanne, and they spend much of their day together doing what they can to avoid the oppressiveness of the heat and of their mother’s ranting. Joseph is a hunter whose record with both animals and women is unmatched by the other men of the area. He does not approve of Monsieur Jo’s advances toward Suzanne and does nothing to mask his disdain for the man’s appearance, wealth, and lust.
Suzanne, Ma’s youngest...
(The entire section is 519 words.)