Flora Meighan, the young wife of Jake Meighan. Blonde, buxom, seductive, and mindless, Flora is childish and childlike, behaving like a petulant, demanding, spoiled child while exuding a vulnerability and dependence that make her a stereotypical female victim. Flora enjoys her husband’s physical abuse and willingly accepts the role of baby to Jake’s “big daddy” role; theirs is clearly a sadomasochistic relationship. Flora agrees to lie for Jake and provide him with an alibi when the neighboring cotton gin is destroyed by fire. She quickly reveals the lie under the questioning of Silva Vicarro, the superintendent of the gin. Once Vicarro realizes Jake’s guilt, he takes his revenge out on Flora, and she quickly becomes the victim of his sexual advances and physical abuse.
Jake Meighan, the owner and operator of a cotton gin. A large, fat, greedy, and ambitious sixty-year-old man with all the mannerisms and class consciousness of a hardworking, lower-middle-class Southerner, Jake proudly possesses his voluptuous young wife as a sign of his own power and sexuality, abusing her while he indulges her. As the play begins, he finds his business threatened by a rival cotton gin owned by the neighboring Syndicate Plantation. Jake sets fire to the rival cotton gin, forcing the superintendent, Silva Vicarro, to bring his cotton to Jake’s gin. This brings together Vicarro and Flora, who begin their adulterous relationship as the unwitting Jake supervises the ginning of Vicarro’s cotton. So absorbed is Jake by the success of his plot that he fails to notice that although his cotton business has been saved, his wife, on whom he dotes, has been lost to the younger man.
Silva Vicarro, the superintendent of the Syndicate Plantation. Vicarro is of Latin descent, small, dark, intense, and intelligent. More clever than Flora, Vicarro quickly surmises from her conversation that Jake is the arsonist. His quick-tempered nature causes him to seek revenge on Jake, who has treated him with conspicuous condescension. Motivated by anger and a desire for revenge, he seduces Flora, who responds to his powerful physical aggression and abuse.