Olive Leech, a thirty-seven-year-old barmaid at the same hotel as Pearl. She is cynical but has an “eagerness that properly belongs to extreme youth.” She appears to have no frustrations about her dull job and seems to take life as it comes. In adjusting to the unconventional relationship she has with a man who comes to town for only five months out of every year, she has blocked off the other seven months of the year, becoming, as she realizes, “blind to what I want to be.” A chance to change the situation with a more conventional arrangement leaves her with a sense of loss and betrayal that borders on the psychotic.
Roo Webber, a sugarcane worker, tall, thirty-seven years old, with light hair starting to gray. He is masculine but has a streak of gentleness, a mixture that invites confidence. He has had a bad working season because of a pretended back injury that he uses as an explanation of his failure to maintain his position as a champion ganger. In his frustration, he fights with his major competitor, Johnny Dowd. He then quits work before the end of the term and returns to the city, eventually getting a job as a painter in a factory, employment he considers degrading. During his annual layoff, he always returns from the fields to live with Olive, to whom he brings, as a symbol of affection, a kewpie doll. This is the seventeenth year for such a present. For him, the relationship with Olive is only a vacation from his real career in the cane fields, where he enjoys a strong sense of community with his fellow workers. He fears making any commitments that will end such bonding but has come to realize that those days are...
(The entire section is 695 words.)