The Plague of Doves Characters
The main characters in The Plague of Doves include Evelina Harp, Mooshum, Shamengwa, and Judge Antone Bazil Coutts.
- Evelina Harp is one of the novel’s narrators and Mooshum’s granddaughter. She works at a diner and a mental health facility.
- Mooshum is Evelina’s grandfather and the only one of a group of Indigenous men to escape being lynched after discovering a farm family’s murder.
- Shamengwa is Mooshum’s brother and a violinist. He passes on his craft to Corwin Peace.
- Judge Antone Bazil Coutts is another of the novel’s narrators and Pluto’s tribal judge. He marries Mooshum’s daughter Geraldine.
Last Updated on February 4, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1058
The first narrator in the novel, Evelina Harp, is a witty young woman with a penchant for falling frightfully head-over-heels in love. Evelina has her first crush on her cousin, Corwin Peace, and this secret romance torments Evelina when she is an early teen. Later she transfers this love to her teacher Sister Mary Anita after she is scolded for making fun of the nun’s appearance. Evelina feels an incredible need to protect Sister Mary Anita, and she has dreams of running away and living with her teacher. When Evelina goes away to college, she falls into a state of depression and has a secret affair with a patient at the mental hospital. Evelina thus begins to explore her sexuality, all the while trying to find out what is truly haunting her.
Seraph Milk, Evelina’s beloved grandfather Mooshum, is a chronicler of family history. While his grandchildren listen intently, he recounts the story of the plague of doves that descended upon the reservation. Mooshum will not be forced to relay stories; he chooses to entertain as he pleases. He is without moral restriction and flirts tirelessly with Evelina’s aunt, Neve Harp. Mooshum is constantly under the surveillance of his daughter Clemence, Evelina’s mother, because he is an incorrigible alcoholic. Mooshum keeps the truth from Evelina and must repent for his carelessness when Evelina confronts him.
Mooshum’s brother, Shamengwa, is dapper and sophisticated in spite of his crippled arm. Shamengwa reveals that he broke his arm as a child and used a strap to prop the arm up to play the violin without knowing that the effects would be so disastrous. Shamengwa continued to play the violin, and his music is widely respected. He becomes the saving grace for Corwin Peace after he teaches him to play the violin.
Judge Antone Bazil Coutts
Antone Coutts, the second narrator in the novel, left his job at the cemetery to become the tribal judge in the area. He understands the long history of both Pluto and the reservation and the ties that bind the areas. Antone is involved in a few scandals in town, most recently his “living in sin” with Geraldine Milk. However, this does not compare to his illicit affair with the town doctor, Cordelia Lochren, who is many years his senior.
The illegitimate son of John Wildstrand and Maggie Peace, Corwin is the object of Evelina’s love in their elementary school classroom. But even from this tender age, Corwin exhibits the wily traits that will later cause him to be labeled as a delinquent. He cruelly taunts Sister Mary Anita, clothing a wind-up Godzilla toy that he lets loose in the classroom. As a teenager, Corwin begins using and dealing drugs and is later guilty of stealing Shamengwa’s beloved violin. Corwin manages to turn himself around with the help of sympathetic others who become part of his life.
The younger brother of Maggie Peace and a descendant of Cuthbert Peace, Billy is first introduced as a shy teen when he threatens the life of John Wildstrand. Maggie is pregnant by John, and Billy does not want John to abandon his sister with the baby. John calms Billy down and convinces him to participate in an orchestrated kidnapping of John’s wife, Neve. Naïve, Billy agrees and all goes as planned. Later, Neve recognizes him, so he enlists in the army to avoid arrest. While on the battlefield, Billy begins to change, and his letters home to Maggie reveal that he believes he sees angels and spirits. When Billy returns, he uses his charisma to gather a following of believers and travels about preaching to anyone who will listen. After Billy marries Marn, they return to North Dakota and take over her parents’ farm, creating a community of worshippers of what Billy has labeled simply as “spirit.”
The novel’s third narrator, Marn Wolde, has a distinct voice that is at times spiritual yet at other times spunky and sarcastic. Marn is of German American parentage, and her family owns a large farm just outside the Ojibwe reservation. She marries Billy Peace and watches as her life turns into a roller coaster ride of obeying the spirit and suffering violence. Marn describes wild sexual encounters with her husband, his descent into obsessive religion, and the life of restraint she is forced to live. Marn becomes engrossed in religion herself and takes on two poisonous snakes that she thinks house the Holy Spirit. She milks one of the snakes to extract poison to kill her husband after he tries to force their son into a bout of physical punishment. Marn’s children mean everything to her, and she dreams of the day when they will be able to have the freedom of other children. After killing Billy, Marn leaves the compound with the children and takes them to a diner to have the biggest meal of their lives.
Uncle Warren Wolde
Uncle Warren lives on the farm with Marn’s parents, and he seems to be able to see right through her. He tells her that she will kill someone someday; soon after, he begins to lose his mind and is committed to the state mental hospital. In the hospital, Uncle Warren wanders the hallways and never seems to sleep. He carries intricately folded dollar bills in his pockets that he tries to give as presents to the nursing staff. He speaks in rambling stories that always end with “I’ll slaughter them all!” In the end, the clues reveal that Uncle Warren is the murderer of the farm family.
Dr. Cordelia Lochren
Cordelia is the last narrator in the novel and Antone Coutts’s former love interest. By the end of the novel, she is well into her seventies and tours the streets of Pluto with her best friend, Neve Harp. Cordelia is the surviving child of the murdered farm family, and it is rumored that she will not treat Indians because she harbors prejudicial feelings against them. People do not know her true intentions, and she keeps to herself that she feels scorned because of the relationship between her and Antone. Cordelia is in charge of the town’s historical society, which she closes at the end of the novel.