Jeeter Lester, a Georgia poor white, the father of seventeen, of whom twelve are surviving and two are still at home. Shiftless but always vaguely hopeful, he makes several halfhearted and futile attempts to feed himself first and his starving family afterward. He burns to death in his shack as a result of a fire he set to burn broomsedge.
Ada Lester, his wife, who shares his fate.
Dude Lester, his sixteen-year-old son, who is persuaded into marriage with a middle-aged widow by her purchase of a Ford, which subsequently runs over and kills a black man and, later, the Lesters’ grandmother, both to no one’s particular regret.
Bessie Lester, Dude’s wife. She uses her authority as a backwoods evangelist to perform her own marriage ceremony.
Pearl Bensey, Jeeter’s fifteen-year-old married daughter. After being tied to their bed by her husband, she manages to free herself and run away.
Lov Bensey, Pearl’s husband. After Pearl’s flight, he is advised by Jeeter to take Ellie May instead.
Ellie May Lester
Ellie May Lester, Jeeter’s harelipped daughter, who uses her charms to distract Lov’s attention, first from his bag of turnips, then later from his marital loss.