Last Updated on June 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 803
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The main character of the novel, twelve-year-old William Page is older than his years as a result of having to live through the tragic circumstances surrounding the Civil War, including the death of his entire family. When the story begins, he is stubborn, opinionated, bitter, angry, and grieving for his family. As the story progresses, readers learn that he is resourceful, a hard worker, cautious and prudent in dealing with aggressive people, and quick to admit mistakes and correct them. His stubbornness changes slowly as he recognizes that not many things are black and white; rather, many human issues, especially related to the war and principles, have many different shades. By the end of the story, Will has resolved much of his anger, is more confident in himself, and is moving well along the path of recovery and maturity.
Ten-year-old Megan Jones is William’s cousin. She is a happy person who tries to see the good in all people. She vehemently defends her father’s decision to not fight in the war, and she provides the opposing viewpoint to many of Will’s assumptions about the North. Meg becomes a good friend to Will and often provides comfort and support to him when he is struggling. Despite her friendly nature, she stands up for what she believes in, even if it means offending; however, she is quick to apologize and mend fences. She is a peacemaker and serves as a calming influence to her family.
Uncle Jed Jones
Jed Jones is William’s uncle. He is a very independent man who always strives to do what he feels is right in his heart, despite what others might think of him as a result or what society might dictate is right or wrong. His principled nature leads him to avoid fighting in the Civil War. He feels that it is wrong to enslave a human being; however, he does not feel, as many others did in the Civil War, that fighting his fellow countrymen was the way to prove his convictions in regards to slavery. Fighting over slavery was answering one evil with another. So he didn't fight. Uncle Jed is a very hard worker, getting up early every day to provide for his family. He also uses great caution and wisdom when dealing with other people and in any major decision that he makes. After he receives a sum of money from a soldier that his family housed, he pondered for days on whether to take the money and use it. He did not want to make a decision hastily that he might regret later; he wanted to be sure of himself. It is this careful analysis of everything in life that is the force behind all of his decisions. In the novel, Uncle Jed serves as a strong moral compass for young Will, helping Will to overcome a lot of the moral confusion, anger, and character flaws.
Aunt Ella Jones
Ella, who was sister to Will’s mother, is a kind-hearted, soft-spoken, hard-working woman who shows Will love and patience. Despite Will’s anger and rather adolescent reactions to many situations, Aunt Ella gives him time and distance, prompting him toward correct decisions through her patience and quiet suggestions. She shows him unconditional love and has a very insightful nature that discerns people’s feelings well.
Doc Martin is a kind friend to Will's family. He takes Will to his uncle’s farm. After Will has been there for a while, Doc Martin writes to invite Will to live with him and raise him as a son. Although Will declines his invitation, the offer shows Doc Martin’s caring nature.
Hank is the son of the town’s shopkeeper; he is regularly abused and beaten by his father whenever he misbehaves. Hank is a bit of a bully himself, tormenting Will and pushing all of his buttons trying to start a fight. He cowers in front of his father but eventually shows courage in defending Will against unfair punishment, and the two boys become friends.
Jim is a Yankee soldier who stops at the Jones farm as he struggles to make it back home to Pennsylvania. While he is there, he attempts to befriend William, who resents the fact that he is a Yankee. Jim is understanding, open-minded, and very intelligent. He is kind to Megan and her parents, and he tells stories of the war. He even leaves Will with a copy of Moby Dick as he leaves and sends money to the Jones family to thank them for their kindness. Jim is instrumental in softening Will’s attitudes toward Northern soldiers; through him, Will is able to realize that there were good people on both sides of the argument.