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Literature Final Exam Book Summaries

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In seventeenth-century Boston (at that time a Puritan settlement), Hester Prynne is led from the town prison with her infant daughter, Pearl, in her arms and the scarlet letter "A" on her breast. A man in the crowd tells an elderly onlooker that Hester is being punished for adultery. Hester's husband, a scholar much older than she is, sent her ahead to America, but he never arrived in Boston. The consensus is that he has been lost at sea. While waiting for her husband, Hester has apparently had an affair, as she has given birth to a child. She will not reveal her lover's identity, however, and the scarlet letter, along with her public shaming, is her punishment for her sin and her secrecy. On this day Hester is led to the town scaffold and harangued by the town fathers, but she again refuses to identify her child's father.
The elderly onlooker is Hester's missing husband, who is now practicing medicine and calling himself Roger Chillingworth. He settles in Boston, intent on revenge. He reveals his true identity to no one but Hester, whom he has sworn to secrecy. Several years pass. Hester supports herself by working as a seamstress, and Pearl grows into a willful, impish child. Shunned by the community, they live in a small cottage on the outskirts of Boston. Community officials attempt to take Pearl away from Hester, but, with the help of Arthur Dimmesdale, a young and eloquent minister, the mother and daughter manage to stay together. Dimmesdale, however, appears to be wasting away and suffers from mysterious heart trouble, seemingly caused by psychological distress. Chillingworth attaches himself to the ailing minister and eventually moves in with him so that he can provide his patient with round-the-clock care. Chillingworth also suspects that there may be a connection between the minister's torments and Hester's secret, and he begins to test Dimmesdale to see what he can learn. One afternoon, while the minister sleeps, Chillingworth discovers a mark on the man's breast (the details of which are kept from the reader), which convinces him that his suspicions are correct. Dimmesdale's psychological anguish deepens, and he invents new tortures for himself. In the meantime, Hester's charitable deeds and quiet humility have earned her a reprieve from the scorn of the community. One night, when Pearl is about seven years old, she and her mother are returning home from a visit to a deathbed when they encounter Dimmesdale atop the town scaffold, trying to punish himself for his sins. Hester and Pearl join him, and the three link hands. Dimmesdale refuses Pearl's request that he acknowledge her publicly the next day, and a meteor marks a dull red "A" in the night sky. Hester can see that the minister's condition is worsening, and she resolves to intervene. She goes to Chillingworth and asks him to stop adding to Dimmesdale's self-torment. Chillingworth refuses. Hester arranges an encounter with Dimmesdale in the forest because she is aware that Chillingworth has probably guessed that she plans to reveal his identity to Dimmesdale. The former lovers decide to flee to Europe, where they can live with Pearl as a family. They will take a ship sailing from Boston in four days. Both feel a sense of release, and Hester removes her scarlet letter and lets down her hair. Pearl, playing nearby, does not recognize her mother without the letter. The day before the ship is to sail, the townspeople gather for a holiday and Dimmesdale preaches his most eloquent sermon ever. Meanwhile, Hester has learned that Chillingworth knows of their plan and has booked passage on the same ship. Dimmesdale, leaving the church after his sermon, sees Hester and Pearl standing before the town scaffold. He impulsively mounts the scaffold with his lover and his daughter, and confesses publicly, exposing a scarlet letter seared into the flesh of his chest. He falls dead, as Pearl kisses him. Frustrated in his revenge, Chillingworth dies a year later. Hester and Pearl leave Boston, and no one knows what has happened to them. Many years later, Hester returns alone, still wearing the scarlet letter, to live in her old cottage and resume her charitable work. She receives occasional letters from Pearl, who has married a European aristocrat and established a family of her own. When Hester dies, she is buried next to Dimmesdale. The two share a single tombstone, which bears a scarlet "A."
As Huckleberry Finn opens, Huck is none too thrilled with his new life of cleanliness, manners, church, and school. However, he sticks it out at the bequest of Tom Sawyer, who tells him that in order to take part in Tom's new "robbers' gang," Huck must stay "respectable." All is well and good until Huck's brutish, drunken father, Pap, reappears in town and demands Huck's money. The local judge, Judge Thatcher, and the Widow try to get legal custody of Huck, but another well-intentioned new judge in town believes in the rights of Huck's natural father and even takes the old drunk into his own home in an attempt to reform him. This effort fails miserably, and Pap soon returns to his old ways. He hangs around town for several months, harassing his son, who in the meantime has learned to read and to tolerate the Widow's attempts to improve him. Finally, outraged when the Widow Douglas warns him to stay away from her house, Pap kidnaps Huck and holds him in a cabin across the river from St. Petersburg.
Whenever Pap goes out, he locks Huck in the cabin, and when he returns home drunk, he beats the boy. Tired of his confinement and fearing the beatings will worsen, Huck escapes from Pap by faking his own death, killing a pig and spreading its blood all over the cabin. Hiding on Jackson's Island in the middle of the Mississippi River, Huck watches the townspeople search the river for his body. After a few days on the island, he encounters Jim, one of Miss Watson's slaves. Jim has run away from Miss Watson after hearing her talk about selling him to a plantation down the river, where he would be treated horribly and separated from his wife and children. Huck and Jim team up, despite Huck's uncertainty about the legality or morality of helping a runaway slave. While they camp out on the island, a great storm causes the Mississippi to flood. Huck and Jim spy a log raft and a house floating past the island. They capture the raft and loot the house, finding in it the body of a man who has been shot. Jim refuses to let Huck see the dead man's face. Although the island is blissful, Huck and Jim are forced to leave after Huck learns from a woman onshore that her husband has seen smoke coming from the island and believes that Jim is hiding out there. Huck also learns that a reward has been offered for Jim's capture. Huck and Jim start downriver on the raft, intending to leave it at the mouth of the Ohio River and proceed up that river by steamboat to the free states, where slavery is prohibited. Several days' travel takes them past St. Louis, and they have a close encounter with a gang of robbers on a wrecked steamboat. They manage to escape with the robbers' loot. During a night of thick fog, Huck and Jim miss the mouth of the Ohio and encounter a group of men looking for escaped slaves. Huck has a brief moral crisis about concealing stolen "property"—Jim, after all, belongs to Miss Watson—but then lies to the men and tells them that his father is on the raft suffering from smallpox. Terrified of the disease, the men give Huck money and hurry away. Unable to backtrack to the mouth of the Ohio, Huck and Jim continue downriver. The next night, a steamboat slams into their raft, and Huck and Jim are separated. Huck ends up in the home of the kindly Grangerfords, a family of Southern aristocrats locked in a bitter and silly feud with a neighboring clan, the Shepherdsons. The elopement of a Grangerford daughter with a Shepherdson son leads to a gun battle in which many in the families are killed. While Huck is caught up in the feud, Jim shows up with the repaired raft. Huck hurries to Jim's hiding place, and they take off down the river.
A few days later, Huck and Jim rescue a pair of men who are being pursued by armed bandits. The men, clearly con artists, claim to be a displaced English duke (the duke) and the long-lost heir to the French throne (the dauphin). Powerless to tell two white adults to leave, Huck and Jim continue down the river with the pair of "aristocrats." The duke and the dauphin pull several scams in the small towns along the river. Coming into one town, they hear the story of a man, Peter Wilks, who has recently died and left much of his inheritance to his two brothers, who should be arriving from England any day. The duke and the dauphin enter the town pretending to be Wilks's brothers. Wilks's three nieces welcome the con men and quickly set about liquidating the estate. A few townspeople become skeptical, and Huck, who grows to admire the Wilks sisters, decides to thwart the scam. He steals the dead Peter Wilks's gold from the duke and the dauphin but is forced to stash it in Wilks's coffin. Huck then reveals all to the eldest Wilks sister, Mary Jane. Huck's plan for exposing the duke and the dauphin is about to unfold when Wilks's real brothers arrive from England. The angry townspeople hold both sets of Wilks claimants, and the duke and the dauphin just barely escape in the ensuing confusion. Fortunately for the sisters, the gold is found. Unfortunately for Huck and Jim, the duke and the dauphin make it back to the raft just as Huck and Jim are pushing off. After a few more small scams, the duke and dauphin commit their worst crime yet: they sell Jim to a local farmer, telling him Jim is a runaway for whom a large reward is being offered. Huck finds out where Jim is being held and resolves to free him. At the house where Jim is a prisoner, a woman greets Huck excitedly and calls him "Tom." As Huck quickly discovers, the people holding Jim are none other than Tom Sawyer's aunt and uncle, Silas and Sally Phelps. The Phelpses mistake Huck for Tom, who is due to arrive for a visit, and Huck goes along with their mistake. He intercepts Tom between the Phelps house and the steamboat dock, and Tom pretends to be his own younger brother, Sid. Tom hatches a wild plan to free Jim, adding all sorts of unnecessary obstacles even though Jim is only lightly secured. Huck is sure Tom's plan will get them all killed, but he complies nonetheless. After a seeming eternity of pointless preparation, during which the boys ransack the Phelps's house and make Aunt Sally miserable, they put the plan into action. Jim is freed, but a pursuer shoots Tom in the leg. Huck is forced to get a doctor, and Jim sacrifices his freedom to nurse Tom. All are returned to the Phelps's house, where Jim ends up back in chains. When Tom wakes the next morning, he reveals that Jim has actually been a free man all along, as Miss Watson, who made a provision in her will to free Jim, died two months earlier. Tom had planned the entire escape idea all as a game and had intended to pay Jim for his troubles. Tom's Aunt Polly then shows up, identifying "Tom" and "Sid" as Huck and Tom. Jim tells Huck, who fears for his future—particularly that his father might reappear—that the body they found on the floating house off Jackson's Island had been Pap's. Aunt Sally then steps in and offers to adopt Huck, but Huck, who has had enough "sivilizing," announces his plan to set out for the West.
Jim Burden, a successful New York City lawyer, gives an acquaintance a memoir of his Nebraska childhood in the form of a recollection of their mutual friend, Ántonia Shimerda. This memoir makes up the bulk of the novel. Jim first arrives in Nebraska at the age of ten, when he makes the trip west to live with his grandparents after finding himself an orphan in Virginia. On the train out west, Jim gets his first glimpse of the Shimerdas, a Bohemian immigrant family traveling in the same direction. As fate would have it, the Shimerdas have taken up residence in farm neighboring the Burdens'. Jim makes fast friends with the Shimerda children, especially Ántonia, who is nearest to him in age and eager to learn English. Jim tutors Ántonia, and the two of them spend much of the autumn exploring their new landscape together.
In late January, tragedy strikes with the suicide of Mr. Shimerda. After an emotional funeral, the Shimerdas retreat into despair, and the Burdens struggle to be as accommodating as possible. As a result of the hardships that the Shimerdas suffer, Ántonia and Jim find that a wedge has been driven between them.
A couple of years later, the Burdens decide to move into town, and shortly thereafter Ántonia takes a job as a housekeeper with a neighboring family, the Harlings. Jim begins to see more of Ántonia once again, especially when a dancing pavilion comes to town and enlivens the social scene.
Jim's high school years quickly come to a close, and he is offered a spot at the university in Lincoln. He makes a great success of his high school commencement speech and spends the summer hard at work in preparation for his course of study. Before leaving, he takes one last trip out to the countryside with Ántonia and her friends, where they gather to reminisce about old times together.
In Lincoln, Jim throws himself into his studies, which take up the majority of his time in the first year and a half of his course. In the spring of his second year, he begins to see a good deal of Lena Lingard, a mutual friend of his and Ántonia's who has always intrigued Jim. After a few months of theatergoing and dalliances about town, Jim decides that he needs to make a fresh start of things and prepares to transfer to Harvard University for his final two years of college.
While Jim is away, Ántonia gets engaged to a local boy and moves to Denver in order to be with him. Days before the wedding, the boy -abandons Ántonia, and she returns to Nebraska heartbroken. She covers up an unexpected pregnancy throughout its term, but in giving birth to a daughter incurs the disapproval of her family. However, she resolves to take care of her baby and continues to work on the farm with her brother.
After graduating from college, during the summer before entering law school, Jim returns to Nebraska to be with his grandparents. Upon hearing of Ántonia's situation, he decides to drive out to the countryside and visit her. They spend a happy day together reliving old times, and Jim parts with a promise to visit her again very soon.
Twenty years pass before Jim is able to visit Ántonia again. In the intervening period, he establishes himself as a prosperous New York City lawyer, and Ántonia marries and has many children with a man named Cuzak, also of Bohemian origin. Jim's visit to the Cuzak farm is a happy one, with plenty of laughter and stories. Ántonia and Jim renew their old ties, and Jim resolves to be in closer contact with the Cuzaks in the -coming years.
As he prepares to leave Nebraska and return to New York City, Jim walks along the outskirts of town, near the overgrown road that leads to his childhood home. At peace with himself in this familiar landscape, he feels that his life has come full circle, and he reflects in the moonlight on all that his past with Ántonia has meant to him.
Frederick Douglass was born into slavery sometime in 1817 or 1818. Like many slaves, he is unsure of his exact date of birth. Douglass is separated from his mother, Harriet Bailey, soon after he is born. His father is most likely their white master, Captain Anthony. Captain Anthony is the clerk of a rich man named Colonel Lloyd. Lloyd owns hundreds of slaves, who call his large, central plantation the "Great House Farm." Life on any of Lloyd's plantations, like that on many Southern plantations, is brutal. Slaves are overworked and exhausted, receive little food, few articles of clothing, and no beds. Those who break rules—and even those who do not—are beaten or whipped, and sometimes even shot by the plantation overseers, the cruelest of which are Mr. Severe and Mr. Austin Gore.
Douglass's life on this plantation is not as hard as that of most of the other slaves. Being a child, he serves in the household instead of in the fields. At the age of seven, he is given to Captain Anthony's son‑in‑law's brother, Hugh Auld, who lives in Baltimore. In Baltimore, Douglass enjoys a relatively freer life. In general, city slave-owners are more conscious of appearing cruel or neglectful toward their slaves in front of their non‑slaveowning neighbors.
Sophia Auld, Hugh's wife, has never had slaves before, and therefore she is surprisingly kind to Douglass at first. She even begins to teach Douglass to read, until her husband orders her to stop, saying that education makes slaves unmanageable. Eventually, Sophia succumbs to the mentality of slaveowning and loses her natural kindliness. Though Sophia and Hugh Auld become crueler toward him, Douglass still likes Baltimore and is able to teach himself to read with the help of local boys. As he learns to read and write, Douglass becomes conscious of the evils of slavery and of the existence of the abolitionist, or antisla-very, movement. He resolves to escape to the North eventually.
After the deaths of Captain Anthony and his remaining heirs, Douglass is taken back to serve Thomas Auld, Captain Anthony's son‑in‑law. Auld is a mean man made harsher by his false religious piety. Auld considers Douglass unmanageable, so Auld rents him for one year to Edward Covey, a man known for "breaking" slaves. Covey manages, in the first six months, to work and whip all the spirit out of Douglass. Douglass becomes a brutish man, no longer interested in reading or freedom, capable only of resting from his injuries and exhaustion. The turning point comes when Douglass resolves to fight back against Covey. The two men have a two‑hour fight, after which Covey never touches Douglass again.
His year with Covey over, Douglass is next rented to William Freeland for two years. Though Freeland is a milder, fairer man, Douglass's will to escape is nonetheless renewed. At Freeland's, Douglass begins edu-cating his fellow slaves in a Sabbath school at the homes of free blacks. Despite the threat of punishment and violence they face, many slaves from neighboring farms come to Douglass and work diligently to learn. At Freeland's, Douglass also forms a plan of escape with three fellow slaves with whom he is close. Someone betrays their plan to Freeland, however, and Douglass and the others are taken to jail. Thomas Auld then sends Douglass back to Baltimore with Hugh Auld, to learn the trade of ship caulking.
In Baltimore's trade industry, Douglass runs up against strained race relations. White workers have been working alongside free black workers, but the whites have begun to fear that the increasing numbers of free blacks will take their jobs. Though only an apprentice and still a slave, Douglass encounters violent tactics of intimidation from his white coworkers and is forced to switch shipyards. In his new apprenticeship, Douglass quickly learns the trade of caulking and soon earns the highest wages possible, always turning them over to Hugh Auld.
Eventually, Douglass receives permission from Hugh Auld to hire out his extra time. He saves money bit by bit and eventually makes his escape to New York. Douglass refrains from describing the details of his escape in order to protect the safety of future slaves who may attempt the journey. In New York, Douglass fears recapture and changes his name from Bailey to Douglass. Soon after, he marries Anna Murray, a free woman he met while in Baltimore. They move north to Massachusetts, where Douglass becomes deeply engaged with the abolitionist movement as both a writer and an orator.
Nick Carraway, a young man from Minnesota, moves to New York in the summer of 1922 to learn about the bond business. He rents a house in the West Egg district of Long Island, a wealthy but unfashionable area populated by the new rich, a group who have made their fortunes too recently to have established social connections and who are prone to garish displays of wealth. Nick's next-door neighbor in West Egg is a mysterious man named Jay Gatsby, who lives in a gigantic Gothic mansion and throws extravagant parties every Saturday night.
Nick is unlike the other inhabitants of West Egg—he was educated at Yale and has social connections in East Egg, a fashionable area of Long Island home to the established upper class. Nick drives out to East Egg one evening for dinner with his cousin, Daisy Buchanan, and her husband, Tom, an erstwhile classmate of Nick's at Yale. Daisy and Tom introduce Nick to Jordan Baker, a beautiful, cynical young woman with whom Nick begins a romantic relationship. Nick also learns a bit about Daisy and Tom's marriage: Jordan tells him that Tom has a lover, Myrtle Wilson, who lives in the valley of ashes, a gray industrial dumping ground between West Egg and New York City. Not long after this revelation, Nick travels to New York City with Tom and Myrtle. At a vulgar, gaudy party in the apartment that Tom keeps for the affair, Myrtle begins to taunt Tom about Daisy, and Tom responds by breaking her nose.
As the summer progresses, Nick eventually garners an invitation to one of Gatsby's legendary parties. He encounters Jordan Baker at the party, and they meet Gatsby himself, a surprisingly young man who affects an English accent, has a remarkable smile, and calls everyone "old sport." Gatsby asks to speak to Jordan alone, and, through Jordan, Nick later learns more about his mysterious neighbor. Gatsby tells Jordan that he knew Daisy in Louisville in 1917 and is deeply in love with her. He spends many nights staring at the green light at the end of her dock, across the bay from his mansion. Gatsby's extravagant lifestyle and wild parties are simply an attempt to impress Daisy. Gatsby now wants Nick to arrange a reunion between himself and Daisy, but he is afraid that Daisy will refuse to see him if she knows that he still loves her. Nick invites Daisy to have tea at his house, without telling her that Gatsby will also be there. After an initially awkward reunion, Gatsby and Daisy reestablish their connection. Their love rekindled, they begin an affair.
After a short time, Tom grows increasingly suspicious of his wife's relationship with Gatsby. At a luncheon at the Buchanans' house, Gatsby stares at Daisy with such undisguised passion that Tom realizes Gatsby is in love with her. Though Tom is himself involved in an extramarital affair, he is deeply outraged by the thought that his wife could be unfaithful to him. He forces the group to drive into New York City, where he confronts Gatsby in a suite at the Plaza Hotel. Tom asserts that he and Daisy have a history that Gatsby could never understand, and he announces to his wife that Gatsby is a criminal—his fortune comes from bootlegging alcohol and other illegal activities. Daisy realizes that her allegiance is to Tom, and Tom contemptuously sends her back to East Egg with Gatsby, attempting to prove that Gatsby cannot hurt him.
When Nick, Jordan, and Tom drive through the valley of ashes, however, they discover that Gatsby's car has struck and killed Myrtle, Tom's lover. They rush back to Long Island, where Nick learns from Gatsby that Daisy was driving the car when it struck Myrtle, but that Gatsby intends to take the blame. The next day, Tom tells Myrtle's husband, George, that Gatsby was the driver of the car. George, who has leapt to the conclusion that the driver of the car that killed Myrtle must have been her lover, finds Gatsby in the pool at his mansion and shoots him dead. He then fatally shoots himself.
Nick stages a small funeral for Gatsby, ends his relationship with Jordan, and moves back to the Midwest to escape the disgust he feels for the people surrounding Gatsby's life and for the emptiness and moral decay of life among the wealthy on the East Coast. Nick reflects that just as Gatsby's dream of Daisy was corrupted by money and dishonesty, the American dream of happiness and individualism has disintegrated into the mere pursuit of wealth. Though Gatsby's power to transform his dreams into reality is what makes him "great," Nick reflects that the era of dreaming—both Gatsby's dream and the American dream—is over.
The Old Man and the Sea is the story of an epic struggle between an old, seasoned fisherman and the greatest catch of his life. For eighty-four days, Santiago, an aged Cuban fisherman, has set out to sea and returned empty-handed. So conspicuously unlucky is he that the parents of his young, devoted apprentice and friend, Manolin, have forced the boy to leave the old man in order to fish in a more prosperous boat. Nevertheless, the boy continues to care for the old man upon his return each night. He helps the old man tote his gear to his ramshackle hut, secures food for him, and discusses the latest developments in American baseball, especially the trials of the old man's hero, Joe DiMaggio. Santiago is confident that his unproductive streak will soon come to an end, and he resolves to sail out farther than usual the following day.
On the eighty-fifth day of his unlucky streak, Santiago does as promised, sailing his skiff far beyond the island's shallow coastal waters and venturing into the Gulf Stream. He prepares his lines and drops them. At noon, a big fish, which he knows is a marlin, takes the bait that Santiago has placed one hundred fathoms deep in the waters. The old man expertly hooks the fish, but he cannot pull it in. Instead, the fish begins to pull the boat.
Unable to tie the line fast to the boat for fear the fish would snap a taut line, the old man bears the strain of the line with his shoulders, back, and hands, ready to give slack should the marlin make a run. The fish pulls the boat all through the day, through the night, through another day, and through another night. It swims steadily northwest until at last it tires and swims east with the current. The entire time, Santiago endures constant pain from the fishing line. Whenever the fish lunges, leaps, or makes a dash for freedom, the cord cuts Santiago badly. Although wounded and weary, the old man feels a deep empathy and admiration for the marlin, his brother in suffering, strength, and resolve.
On the third day the fish tires, and Santiago, sleep-deprived, aching, and nearly delirious, manages to pull the marlin in close enough to kill it with a harpoon thrust. Dead beside the skiff, the marlin is the largest Santiago has ever seen. He lashes it to his boat, raises the small mast, and sets sail for home. While Santiago is excited by the price that the marlin will bring at market, he is more concerned that the people who will eat the fish are unworthy of its greatness.
As Santiago sails on with the fish, the marlin's blood leaves a trail in the water and attracts sharks. The first to attack is a great mako shark, which Santiago manages to slay with the harpoon. In the struggle, the old man loses the harpoon and lengths of valuable rope, which leaves him vulnerable to other shark attacks. The old man fights off the successive vicious predators as best he can, stabbing at them with a crude spear he makes by lashing a knife to an oar, and even clubbing them with the boat's tiller. Although he kills several sharks, more and more appear, and by the time night falls, Santiago's continued fight against the scavengers is useless. They devour the marlin's precious meat, leaving only skeleton, head, and tail. Santiago chastises himself for going "out too far," and for sacrificing his great and worthy opponent. He arrives home before daybreak, stumbles back to his shack, and sleeps very deeply.
The next morning, a crowd of amazed fishermen gathers around the skeletal carcass of the fish, which is still lashed to the boat. Knowing nothing of the old man's struggle, tourists at a nearby café observe the remains of the giant marlin and mistake it for a shark. Manolin, who has been worried sick over the old man's absence, is moved to tears when he finds Santiago safe in his bed. The boy fetches the old man some coffee and the daily papers with the baseball scores, and watches him sleep. When the old man wakes, the two agree to fish as partners once more. The old man returns to sleep and dreams his usual dream of lions at play on the beaches of Africa.
The grandmother tries to convince her son, Bailey, and his wife to take the family to east Tennessee for vacation instead of Florida. She points out an article about the Misfit, an escaped convict heading toward Florida, and adds that the children have already been there. John Wesley, eight years old, suggests that the grandmother stay home, and his sister, June Star, says nastily that his grandmother would never do that.
On the day of the trip, the grandmother hides her cat, Pitty Sing, in a basket in the car. She wears a dress and hat with flowers on it so that people will know she is "a lady" if there's an accident. In the car, John Wesley says he doesn't like Georgia, and the grandmother chastises him for not respecting his home state. When they pass a cotton field, she says there are graves in the middle of it that belonged to the plantation and jokes that the plantation has "Gone with the Wind." Later, she tells a story about an old suitor, Edgar Atkins Teagarden. Edgar brought her a watermelon every week, into which he carved his initials, E. A. T. Once he left it on the porch and a black child ate it because he thought it said eat.
The family stops at a restaurant called the Tower, owned by Red Sammy Butts. Red Sammy complains that people are untrustworthy, explaining that he recently let two men buy gasoline on credit. The grandmother tells him he's a good man for doing it. Red Sam's wife says she doesn't trust anyone, including Red Sam. The grandmother asks her if she's heard about the Misfit, and the woman worries that he'll rob them. Red Sam says, "A good man is hard to find." He and the grandmother lament the state of the world.
Back in the car, the grandmother wakes from a nap and realizes that a plantation she once visited is nearby. She says that the house had six white columns and was at the end of an oak tree-lined driveway. She lies that the house had a secret panel to make the house seem more interesting. Excited, the children beg to go to the house until Bailey angrily gives in. The grandmother points him to a dirt road.
The family drives deep into the woods. The grandmother suddenly remembers that the house was in Tennessee, not in Georgia. Horrified at her mistake, she jerks her feet. Pitty Sing escapes from the basket and startles Bailey, who wrecks the car. The children's mother breaks her shoulder, but no one else is hurt. The grandmother decides not to tell Bailey about her mistake.
A passing car stops, and three men get out, carrying guns. The grandmother thinks she recognizes one of them. One of the men, wearing glasses and no shirt, descends into the ditch. He tells the children's mother to make the children sit down because they make him nervous. The grandmother suddenly screams because she realizes that he's the Misfit. The man says it's not good that she recognized him. Bailey curses violently, upsetting the grandmother. The grandmother asks the Misfit whether he'd shoot a lady, and the Misfit says he wouldn't like to. The grandmother claims that she can tell he's a good man and that he comes from "nice people." The Misfit agrees and praises his parents.
The grandmother continues telling him he's a good man. The Misfit tells the other two men, Hiram and Bobby Lee, to take Bailey and John Wesley into the woods. The grandmother adjusts her hat, but the brim breaks off. The Misfit says he knows he isn't good but that he isn't the worst man either. He apologizes to the grandmother and the children's mother for not wearing a shirt and says that he and the other men had to bury their clothes after they escaped. He says they borrowed the clothes they're wearing from some people they met.
The grandmother asks the Misfit whether he ever prays. Just as he says no, she hears two gunshots. The Misfit says he used to be a gospel singer, and the grandmother chants, "pray, pray." He says he wasn't a bad child but that at one point he went to prison for a crime he can't remember committing. He says a psychiatrist told him he'd killed his father. The grandmother tells the Misfit to pray so that Jesus will help him. The Misfit says he's fine on his own.
Bobby Lee and Hiram come back from the woods, and Bobby Lee gives the Misfit the shirt Bailey had been wearing, but the grandmother doesn't realize it's Bailey's. The Misfit tells the children's mother to take the baby and June Star and go with Bobby Lee and Hiram into the woods. Bobby Lee tries to hold June Star's hand, but she says he looks like a pig.
The grandmother starts chanting, "Jesus, Jesus." The Misfit says he's like Jesus, except Jesus hadn't committed a crime. He says he gave himself this name because his punishment doesn't seem to fit the crime people said he committed. A gunshot comes from the woods. The grandmother begs the Misfit not to shoot a lady. Two more gunshots come from the woods, and the grandmother cries out for Bailey.
The Misfit says that Jesus confused everything by raising the dead. He says that if what Jesus did is true, then everyone must follow him. But if he didn't actually raise the dead, then all anyone can do is enjoy their time on earth by indulging in "meanness." The grandmother agrees that perhaps Jesus didn't raise the dead. The Misfit says he wishes he had been there so he could know for sure. The grandmother calls the Misfit "one of my own children," and the Misfit shoots her in the chest three times.
Bobby Lee and Hiram return, and they all look at the grandmother. The Misfit observes that the grandmother could have been a good woman if someone had been around "to shoot her every minute of her life." The Misfit says life has no true pleasure.
Julian, a recent college graduate, prepares to escort his mother to her weekly weight-loss class at the YMCA, which she attends to reduce her high blood pressure. He escorts her there every week because she has refused to take the bus alone since integration. She adjusts her garish new hat and contemplates returning it to pay the monthly gas bill. While walking through their dilapidated neighborhood, Julian imagines moving to a house in the country. He declares that he will one day make money, even though he knows he never really will. His mother encourages him to dream, saying that it will take time to establish himself.
She continues to chatter, mentioning that her grandfather once owned a plantation with 200 slaves. Embarrassed, Julian comments that the days of slavery are over, to which she replies that blacks should be free to rise but should do so separately from whites. Both think about the grandfather's house again, and Julian grows envious, despite the fact that he only saw the house in ruins as a boy. As his mother talks about her black nurse, Caroline, Julian resolves to sit next to a black person on the bus in reparation for his mother's prejudices.
When they arrive at the bus stop, Julian baits his mother by removing his tie, prompting her to exclaim that he looks like a thug. Julian retorts that true culture is in the mind and not reflected by how one acts or looks, as his mother believes. As they bicker, the bus pulls up and they board. Julian's mother strikes up conversation with other passengers, eventually pointing out with relief that there are only white people on the bus. Another woman joins in, and the subject of the discussion turns to Julian. Julian's mother comments that he works as a typewriter salesman but wants to be a writer. Julian withdraws into a mental bubble. He judges his mother for her opinions, believing that she lives in a distorted fantasy world of false graciousness. Although he feels nothing but disdain for her, she has made sacrifices so that he could have a good education.
The bus stops and a well-dressed African American man boards, sits down, and opens a newspaper. Julian imagines striking up conversation with him just to make his mother uncomfortable. Instead, he asks for a light, in spite of the no-smoking signs and the fact that he doesn't have any cigarettes. He awkwardly returns the matches to the man, who glares at him. Julian dreams up new ways to teach his mother a lesson, imagining that he will ignore her as she gets off the bus, which would force her to worry that he may not pick her up after her exercise class.
Julian retreats deeper into his thoughts, daydreaming about bringing a black lawyer or professor home for dinner or about his mother becoming sick and requiring treatment from a black doctor. Though he would not want to give his mother a stroke, he fantasizes about bringing a black woman home and forcing his mother to accept her. Despite these fantasies, he remembers how he has failed to connect with the African Americans with whom he has struck up conversations in the past.
The bus stops again, and a stern-looking black woman boards with her young son in tow. Julian senses something familiar about her, but he doesn't know why. The little boy clambers onto the seat next to Julian's mother, while the black woman squeezes into the seat next to Julian. Julian's mother likes all children regardless of race and smiles at the little boy. He then realizes with delight that the black woman seems so familiar because she wears the same ugly hat as his mother, and he hopes the coincidence will teach his mother a lesson. The black woman angrily calls out to her son, Carver, yanking him to her side. Julian's mother tries to play peek-a-boo with the little boy, but the black woman ignores her and chastises her son instead.
Julian and the black woman both pull the signal cord at the same time to get off the bus. Julian realizes with horror that his mother will try to give Carver a nickel as she does with all little children. While they disembark, his mother searches through her purse but can find only a penny. Despite Julian's warnings, his mother calls after Carver and tells him she has a shiny new penny for him. Carver's mother explodes with rage, shouting "He don't take nobody's pennies!" She swings her massive purse and knocks Julian's mother down to the ground, then drags Carver away.
Julian berates his mother as he collects her items and pulls her up. Disoriented, she sways for a moment before stumbling off. Julian follows and lectures her, saying that she should learn from her encounter with the woman on the bus, who represents all African Americans and their distaste for condescending handouts. Reaching out to grab her arm, he sees a strange expression on her face. She tells him to call for Grandpa or her nurse, Caroline, to fetch her. Wresting herself from his grasp, she crumples to the pavement. Julian rushes to her and finds her face distorted, one eye rolling around and the other fixed on his face before finally closing. Julian starts to run for help but quickly returns to his mother's side.
Mrs. Turpin and her husband, Claud, enter the waiting room at a doctor's office, where they have come to treat the ulcer on Claud's leg. There is nowhere for Mrs. Turpin to sit because a dirty child is taking up too much space on the sofa. Mrs. Turpin immediately starts a mindless conversation with the only other woman in the room whom she deems worthy, judging by appearance. This woman, who is dressed stylishly and whom Mrs. Turpin considers to be pleasant, is the mother of an extremely unattractive, fat, teenage girl who is reading a book called Human Development and scowling. This girl is Mary Grace.
Mrs. Turpin sizes up the other occupants of the waiting room, including a white-trash woman, who is the mother of the dirty boy. Mrs. Turpin thanks Jesus, as she often does at night before falling asleep, that she is not white-trashy or black. She considers the classes of people in the world to be distinguished by race and by whether or not they own a home and land. She begins to feel sorry for Mary Grace because she is so homely, though Mary Grace has been looking up from her book only to smirk at Mrs. Turpin. All of sudden, the girl seems to lose patience and slams her book shut to stare directly at Mrs. Turpin "as if she had some special reason for disliking her."
The conversation between Mrs. Turnpin and Mary Grace's mother turns to farming, and Mrs. Turpin says that she and Claud own a home and land and have hogs which they keep in a pen so their feet don't get dirty; they keep them clean by hosing them down. The white-trash woman expresses her distaste at the idea of owning hogs. A black delivery boy enters with a delivery for the doctor's office, and Mrs. Turpin deliberately shows him kindness. Mary Grace continues to show signs of losing patience with the conversation as her mother, Mrs. Turpin, and the white-trash woman discuss the possibility of sending all black Americans back to Africa. Again, Mrs. Turpin feels thankful that Jesus has made her white and privileged, and all of a sudden Mary Grace's stare becomes more intense and violent, as if she can read Mrs. Turpin's mind.
Mrs. Turpin reacts by trying to engage Mary Grace in conversation about college and the book she is reading, but Mary Grace refuses to participate. Instead, her mother talks about how ungrateful she is and what a shame it is that she has such a bad disposition. Mrs. Turpin responds that she is always grateful for making her life the way it is, and exclaims aloud, "Thank you, Jesus!" At that point, Mary Grace hurls her book at Mrs. Turpin's face and physically attacks her, strangling her neck. Almost immediately, she is pulled off and falls on the floor, where she lies with her eyes rolling in her head. Mrs. Turpin asks, "What you got to say to me?" and Mary Grace responds, "Go back to hell where you came from, you old wart hog." Soon, Mary Grace and her mother leave in an ambulance and Mrs. Turpin and Claud go home.
They spend the afternoon lying in bed resting, and while Claud sleeps, Mrs. Turpin fixates on what the girl said to her. She cries at first, but then gets angry that she should be the target of this message, since there were so many other, lesser people in the room to whom it could have been directed. Before Claud takes the black farmhands home in the pick-up truck, Mrs. Turpin brings them ice cold water to drink. Mrs. Turpin confides in them what happened, but when they react with sympathy and compliments she only becomes annoyed since she knows they are insincere.
Before they have finished drinking, she goes back into the kitchen and decides to go to the pig parlor. She tries to justify their existence in her mind, thinking about how smart they are and all that they can do. She sends Claud on his way to take the farm hands home in the pick-up truck, and grabs the hose to spray down the hogs. She asks God why he sent her such a message, and is unable to understand how she can be "saved and from hell too." She addresses God and Mary Grace at the same time, revealing her disdain for white-trash and black people. Then she challenges God, saying, "Go on, call me a hog again... Who do you think you are?" Immediately, she has a vision.
A She sees a streak of light extending upward into the sky, surrounded by fire, like a bridge. A horde of people advances from the earth toward Heaven, but in the front are all those whom Mrs. Turpin considers below herself: white-trash, now clean, black people, and "freaks and lunatics" like Mary Grace seems to be. At the end of the procession are people like her and Claud, who have been stripped of their earthly virtues (like kindness to those they consider to be inferiors). The vision reveals to her that all people are equal in God's eyes, and she is successfully moved.
Hester Prynne - Hester is the book's protagonist and the wearer of the scarlet letter that gives the book its title. The letter, a patch of fabric in the shape of an "A," signifies that Hester is an "adulterer." As a young woman, Hester married an elderly scholar, Chillingworth, who sent her ahead to America to live but never followed her. While waiting for him, she had an affair with a Puritan minister named Dimmesdale, after which she gave birth to Pearl. Hester is passionate but also strong—she endures years of shame and scorn. She equals both her husband and her lover in her intelligence and thoughtfulness. Her alienation puts her in the position to make acute observations about her community, particularly about its treatment of women.
Pearl - Hester's illegitimate daughter Pearl is a young girl with a moody, mischievous spirit and an ability to perceive things that others do not. For example, she quickly discerns the truth about her mother and Dimmesdale. The townspeople say that she barely seems human and spread rumors that her unknown father is actually the Devil. She is wise far beyond her years, frequently engaging in ironic play having to do with her mother's scarlet letter.
Roger Chillingworth - "Roger Chillingworth" is actually Hester's husband in disguise. He is much older than she is and had sent her to America while he settled his affairs in Europe. Because he is captured by Native Americans, he arrives in Boston belatedly and finds Hester and her illegitimate child being displayed on the scaffold. He lusts for revenge, and thus decides to stay in Boston despite his wife's betrayal and disgrace. He is a scholar and uses his knowledge to disguise himself as a doctor, intent on discovering and tormenting Hester's anonymous lover. Chillingworth is self-absorbed and both physically and psychologically monstrous. His single-minded pursuit of retribution reveals him to be the most malevolent character in the novel.
Reverend Arthur Dimmesdale - Dimmesdale is a young man who achieved fame in England as a theologian and then emigrated to America. In a moment of weakness, he and Hester became lovers. Although he will not confess it publicly, he is the father of her child. He deals with his guilt by tormenting himself physically and psychologically, developing a heart condition as a result. Dimmesdale is an intelligent and emotional man, and his sermons are thus masterpieces of eloquence and persuasiveness. His commitments to his congregation are in constant conflict with his feelings of sinfulness and need to confess.
Governor Bellingham - Governor Bellingham is a wealthy, elderly gentleman who spends much of his time consulting with the other town fathers. Despite his role as governor of a fledgling American society, he very much resembles a traditional English aristocrat. Bellingham tends to strictly adhere to the rules, but he is easily swayed by Dimmesdale's eloquence. He remains blind to the misbehaviors taking place in his own house: his sister, Mistress Hibbins, is a witch.
Mistress Hibbins - Mistress Hibbins is a widow who lives with her brother, Governor Bellingham, in a luxurious mansion. She is commonly known to be a witch who ventures into the forest at night to ride with the "Black Man." Her appearances at public occasions remind the reader of the hypocrisy and hidden evil in Puritan society.
Reverend Mr. John Wilson - Boston's elder clergyman, Reverend Wilson is scholarly yet grandfatherly. He is a stereotypical Puritan father, a literary version of the stiff, starkly painted portraits of American patriarchs. Like Governor Bellingham, Wilson follows the community's rules strictly but can be swayed by Dimmesdale's eloquence. Unlike Dimmesdale, his junior colleague, Wilson preaches hellfire and damnation and advocates harsh punishment of sinners.
Narrator - The unnamed narrator works as the surveyor of the Salem Custom-House some two hundred years after the novel's events take place. He discovers an old manuscript in the building's attic that tells the story of Hester Prynne; when he loses his job, he decides to write a fictional treatment of the narrative. The narrator is a rather high-strung man, whose Puritan ancestry makes him feel guilty about his writing career. He writes because he is interested in American history and because he believes that America needs to better understand its religious and moral heritage.
Huckleberry "Huck" Finn - The protagonist and narrator of the novel. Huck is the thirteen-year-old son of the local drunk of St. Petersburg, Missouri, a town on the Mississippi River. Frequently forced to survive on his own wits and always a bit of an outcast, Huck is thoughtful, intelligent (though formally uneducated), and willing to come to his own conclusions about important matters, even if these conclusions contradict society's norms. Nevertheless, Huck is still a boy, and is influenced by others, particularly by his imaginative friend, Tom.
Tom Sawyer - Huck's friend, and the protagonist of Tom Sawyer, the novel to which Huckleberry Finn is ostensibly the sequel. In Huckleberry Finn, Tom serves as a foil to Huck: imaginative, dominating, and given to wild plans taken from the plots of adventure novels, Tom is everything that Huck is not. Tom's stubborn reliance on the "authorities" of romance novels leads him to acts of incredible stupidity and startling cruelty. His rigid adherence to society's conventions aligns Tom with the "sivilizing" forces that Huck learns to see through and gradually abandons.
Widow Douglas and Miss Watson - Two wealthy sisters who live together in a large house in St. Petersburg and who adopt Huck. The gaunt and severe Miss Watson is the most prominent representative of the hypocritical religious and ethical values Twain criticizes in the novel. The Widow Douglas is somewhat gentler in her beliefs and has more patience with the mischievous Huck. When Huck acts in a manner contrary to societal expectations, it is the Widow Douglas whom he fears disappointing.
Jim - One of Miss Watson's household slaves. Jim is superstitious and occasionally sentimental, but he is also intelligent, practical, and ultimately more of an adult than anyone else in the novel. Jim's frequent acts of selflessness, his longing for his family, and his friendship with both Huck and Tom demonstrate to Huck that humanity has nothing to do with race. Because Jim is a black man and a runaway slave, he is at the mercy of almost all the other characters in the novel and is often forced into ridiculous and degrading situations.
Pap - Huck's father, the town drunk and ne'er-do-well. Pap is a wreck when he appears at the beginning of the novel, with disgusting, ghostlike white skin and tattered clothes. The illiterate Pap disapproves of Huck's education and beats him frequently. Pap represents both the general debasement of white society and the failure of family structures in the novel.
The duke and the dauphin - A pair of con men whom Huck and Jim rescue as they are being run out of a river town. The older man, who appears to be about seventy, claims to be the "dauphin," the son of King Louis XVI and heir to the French throne. The younger man, who is about thirty, claims to be the usurped Duke of Bridgewater. Although Huck quickly realizes the men are frauds, he and Jim remain at their mercy, as Huck is only a child and Jim is a runaway slave. The duke and the dauphin carry out a number of increasingly disturbing swindles as they travel down the river on the raft.
Judge Thatcher - The local judge who shares responsibility for Huck with the Widow Douglas and is in charge of safeguarding the money that Huck and Tom found at the end of Tom Sawyer. When Huck discovers that Pap has returned to town, he wisely signs his fortune over to the Judge, who doesn't really accept the money, but tries to comfort Huck. Judge Thatcher has a daughter, Becky, who was Tom's girlfriend in Tom Sawyer and whom Huck calls "Bessie" in this novel.
The Grangerfords - A family that takes Huck in after a steamboat hits his raft, separating him from Jim. The kindhearted Grangerfords, who offer Huck a place to stay in their tacky country home, are locked in a long-standing feud with another local family, the Shepherdsons. Twain uses the two families to engage in some rollicking humor and to mock a overly romanticizes ideas about family honor. Ultimately, the families' sensationalized feud gets many of them killed.
The Wilks family - At one point during their travels, the duke and the dauphin encounter a man who tells them of the death of a local named Peter Wilks, who has left behind a rich estate. The man inadvertently gives the con men enough information to allow them to pretend to be Wilks's two brothers from England, who are the recipients of much of the inheritance. The duke and the dauphin's subsequent conning of the good-hearted and vulnerable Wilks sisters is the first step in the con men's increasingly cruel series of scams, which culminate in the sale of Jim.
Silas and Sally Phelps - Tom Sawyer's aunt and uncle, whom Huck coincidentally encounters in his search for Jim after the con men have sold him. Sally is the sister of Tom's aunt, Polly. Essentially good people, the Phelpses nevertheless hold Jim in custody and try to return him to his rightful owner. Silas and Sally are the unknowing victims of many of Tom and Huck's "preparations" as they try to free Jim. The Phelpses are the only intact and functional family in this novel, yet they are too much for Huck, who longs to escape their "sivilizing" influence.
Aunt Polly - Tom Sawyer's aunt and guardian and Sally Phelps's sister. Aunt Polly appears at the end of the novel and properly identifies Huck, who has pretended to be Tom, and Tom, who has pretended to be his own younger brother, Sid.
Jim Burden - The author of the youthful recollection that makes up the body of the novel. As a youth in Nebraska, Jim develops a close friendship with a Bohemian immigrant girl, Ántonia Shimerda. Jim is an intelligent, introspective young man who responds strongly to the land and the environment in which he lives. Unlike most other boys his age, Jim is more interested in academics and reflection than in roughhousing; in fact, he seems to prefer spending time alone or with girls such as Ántonia. At the time of the narrative's composition, Jim is married, but without children, and working as a legal counsel in New York City.
Ántonia Shimerda - The focus of Jim's recollection, and one of his closest childhood friends. Ántonia moves to Nebraska from Bohemia with the rest of her family in her early teenage years. Intelligent, optimistic, loyal, and kindhearted, the naturally gregarious Ántonia is forced to accept a difficult life after the death of her father. At the time Jim writes the narrative, she is raising her large family on the Nebraska prairie, not far from where she and Jim grew up.
Lena Lingard - A Norwegian immigrant's daughter and a friend of Ántonia's. Lena has a brief liaison with Jim in Black Hawk and a more extended relationship with him in Lincoln, where she sets up her own dressmaker's shop. Lena is pretty and blonde, and craves independence and excitement. Men are always attracted to her, but she refuses to marry and give up her freedom.
Otto Fuchs - The Burdens' hired hand, who looks like a cowboy out of one of Jim's books but is actually an Austrian immigrant. Good-natured despite his rough appearance, Otto decides to seek his fortune in the West after the Burdens move to Black Hawk.
Jake Marpole - Another hired hand of the Burdens. Jake makes the trip from Virginia to Nebraska along with Jim and accompanies Otto out west after the Burdens move to Black Hawk. Jake has a powerful temper but generally displays a good-natured and even childlike innocence about the world.
Mr. Shimerda - The patriarch of the Bohemian immigrant family. A melancholy man given to artistic and scholarly pursuits, Mr. Shimerda feels very much out of place in foreign land. His depression eventually leads to suicide, leaving his family members to pick up the pieces and struggle to make a living on their own.
Mrs. Shimerda - The matriarch of the Bohemian immigrant family. Mrs. Shimerda is a brusque, bossy, and often curt woman. After the suicide of her husband, she is forced to make do with the little that she has in an attempt to provide for her family.
Yulka Shimerda - The youngest of the Shimerda children. Yulka is a pretty, young girl who later helps Ántonia raise her baby.
Ambrosch Shimerda - The Shimerdas' oldest son. Mrs. Shimerda and her daughters dote on Ambrosch, claiming that he is brilliant and the reason they came to America. Ambrosch shares his mother's curt and presumptuous attitude, but becomes the unquestioned head of the family after Mr. Shimerda's suicide.
Marek Shimerda - The younger of the two Shimerda brothers. Marek's physical deformities are accompanied by a handful of psychological instabilities and mental deficiencies.
Tiny Soderball - One of the hired girls in Black Hawk and a friend to Ántonia and Lena. After working with Mrs. Gardener in the Boys' Home, Tiny travels west and makes a small fortune during the Alaskan gold rush.
Russian Pavel - Tall, gaunt, and nervous, Pavel is an immigrant who falls ill under the care of the Shimerdas. He had been ostracized and forced to leave his native Russia after a frightful incident involving a wolf attack on a wedding party.
Russian Peter - Pavel's housemate, and a fat, happy man. Like Pavel, Peter was forced into exile from his native Russia following a wolf attack on a wedding party. Peter eventually finds himself severely in debt and sells off his belongings, leaving America for a job as a cook in a Russian labor camp.
Mr. Harling - The patriarch of the Harling family, neighbors to the Burdens in Black Hawk. A businessman of keen ability, Mr. Harling disapproves of Ántonia's frequent carousals at the dancing pavilion and eventually forces her to leave her post as their housekeeper because of her lifestyle.
Mrs. Harling - The matriarch of the Harling family, and a charismatic and active woman. Mrs. Harling develops a strong affection for Ántonia, and she provides myriad activities for her children, Ántonia, and Jim, to take part in.
Frances Harling - The oldest of the Harling children. Frances has a sound business mind and manages her father's accounts with a great deal of skill.
Charley Harling - The only Harling son. Charley is of a military persuasion and eventually goes on to a successful career at the Naval Academy in Annapolis.
Larry Donovan - Ántonia's fiancé, and an arrogant and selfish young man. After being fired from his job as a railroad conductor, Donovan leaves Ántonia on the eve of their wedding, running away to Mexico in search of a quick fortune.
Mrs. Gardener - The proprietress of the Boys' Home in Black Hawk.
Samson d'Arnault - A blind, black pianist. D'Arnault comes to Black Hawk on a blustery March weekend and gives a concert at the Boys' Home that brings down the house.
Gaston Cleric - Jim's tutor at the university in Lincoln. Cleric eventually moves on to a teaching position at Harvard University and brings Jim along with him. His premature death from pneumonia has a strong effect on Jim.
Widow Steavens - The Burdens' tenant at their old farmhouse. Widow Steavens develops a close relationship with Ántonia in the time surrounding the breaking of Ántonia's engagement.
Anton Jelinek - A Bohemian homesteader and friend of the Shimerdas who later moves to Black Hawk and becomes a saloon proprietor.
Peter Krajiek - A Bohemian immigrant and neighbor to the Burdens who sells the Shimerdas their first farm in America and cheats them out of several comforts.
Cuzak - A Bohemian immigrant to America who marries Ántonia and raises a large family with her.
Frederick Douglass - The author and narrator of the Narrative. Douglass, a rhetorically skilled and spirited man, is a powerful orator for the abolitionist movement. One of his reasons for writing the Narrative is to offer proof to critics who felt that such an articulate and intelligent man could not have once been a slave. The Narrative describes Douglass's experience under slavery from his early childhood until his escape North at the age of twenty. Within that time, Douglass progresses from unenlightened victim of the dehumanizing practices of slavery to educated and empowered young man. He gains the resources and convictions to escape to the North and wage a political fight against the institution of slavery.
Captain Anthony - Douglass's first master and probably his father. Anthony is the clerk for Colonel Lloyd, managing Lloyd's surrounding plantations and the overseers of those plantations. Anthony is a cruel man who takes pleasure in whipping his slaves, especially Douglass's Aunt Hester. He is called "Captain" because he once piloted ships up the Chesapeake Bay.
Colonel Edward Lloyd - Captain Anthony's boss and Douglass's first owner. Colonel Lloyd is an extremely rich man who owns all of the slaves and lands where Douglass grows up. Lloyd insists on extreme subservience from his slaves and often punishes them unjustly.
Lucretia Auld - Captain Anthony's daughter and Thomas Auld's wife. After Captain Anthony's death, Lucretia inherits half his property, including Douglass. Lucretia is as cruel an owner as her husband.
Captain Thomas Auld - Lucretia Auld's husband and Hugh Auld's brother. Thomas Auld did not grow up owning slaves, but gained them through his marriage to Lucretia. After attending a church meeting in Maryland, Thomas Auld becomes a "pious" man, but he uses his newfound Christianity to be even more self-righteously brutal toward his slaves.
Hugh Auld - Thomas Auld's brother and Douglass's occasional master. Hugh lives in Baltimore with his wife, Sophia. Thomas and Lucretia Auld allow Hugh to borrow Douglass as a servant for Hugh's son, Thomas. Hugh is well aware that whites maintain power over blacks by depriving them of education, and he unwittingly enlightens Douglass in this matter. Hugh is not as cruel as his brother Thomas, but he becomes harsher due to a drinking habit in his later years. Hugh seems to suffer some consciousness that slavery and the law's treatment of blacks are inhumane, but he does not allow this consciousness to interfere with his exercising power over Douglass.
Sophia Auld - Hugh Auld's wife. Sophia was a working woman before marrying Hugh, and she had never owned slaves. The corruption of owning a slave transforms Sophia from a sympathetic, kind woman into a vengeful monster.
Edward Covey - A notorious slave "breaker" and Douglass's keeper for one year. Slave owners send their unruly slaves to Covey, who works and punishes them (thus getting free labor to cultivate his rented land) and returns them trained and docile. Covey's tactics as a slaveholder are both cruel and sneaky. He is deliberately deceptive and devious when interacting with his slaves, creating an atmosphere of constant surveillance and fear.
Betsy Bailey - Douglass's grandmother. Betsy raised Douglass on Captain Anthony's land after Douglass's mother was taken away. Betsy served the Anthony family her whole life and had many children and grandchildren who became slaves for the Anthonys. After seeing Captain Anthony's children from birth to death, Betsy is abandoned to a hut in the woods instead of being allowed to go free.
Aunt Hester - Douglass's aunt. Aunt Hester is an exceptionally beautiful and noble-looking woman, superior to most white and black women. Captain Anthony is extraordinarily interested in Hester, and she therefore suffers countless whippings at his hands.
Harriet Bailey - Douglass's mother. Harriet is separated from Douglass after his birth, but she still attempts to maintain family relations by walking twelve miles to see him at night. She dies when Douglass is young.
Sandy Jenkins - A slave acquaintance of Douglass. The highly superstitious Sandy stands in the Narrative as a representative of all uneducated, superstitious slaves. Sandy is kind to Douglass when Douglass runs away from Covey's, but the Narrative also implies that Sandy may have informed William Freeland about Douglass's plans to escape.
William Freeland - Douglass's keeper for two years following his time with Covey. Freeland is the most fair and straightforward of all Douglass's masters and is not hypocritically pious. Douglass acknowledges Freeland's exceptional fairness with a pun on his name—"free land."
William Hamilton - Father-in-law of Thomas Auld. After Lucretia Auld's death, Thomas remarries Hamilton's oldest daughter. Hamilton himself sometimes takes charge of Douglass, as when Hamilton arrests Douglass for plotting to escape from Freeland.
William Gardner - A Baltimore shipbuilder. Hugh Auld sends Douglass to Gardner to learn the trade of caulking. Gardner's shipyard is disorderly with racial tension between free-black carpenters and white carpenters, and Gardner is under pressure to complete several ships for a deadline.
Anna Murray - Douglass's wife. Anna is a free black woman from Baltimore who becomes engaged to Douglass before he escapes to freedom. After his escape, Anna and Douglass marry in New York and then move to New Bedford, Massachusetts.
Nathan Johnson - A Massachusetts worker and abolitionist. Johnson is immediately kind and helpful to the Douglasses, loaning them money, helping Douglass find work, and suggesting Douglass's new name. Johnson is well informed on national politics and keeps a nice household.
William Lloyd Garrison - Founder of the American Anti-Slavery Society. Garrison meets Douglass when Douglass is persuaded to tell his history at an abolitionist convention in Nantucket in 1841. Immediately impressed with Douglass's poise and with the power of his story, Garrison hires him for the abolitionist cause.
Wendell Phillips - President of the American Anti-Slavery Society. Phillips considers Douglass a close friend. He admires Douglass's bravery in publishing his history without pseudonyms, but also fears for Douglass's safety.
Nick Carraway - The novel's narrator, Nick is a young man from Minnesota who, after being educated at Yale and fighting in World War I, goes to New York City to learn the bond business. Honest, tolerant, and inclined to reserve judgment, Nick often serves as a confidant for those with troubling secrets. After moving to West Egg, a fictional area of Long Island that is home to the newly rich, Nick quickly befriends his next-door neighbor, the mysterious Jay Gatsby. As Daisy Buchanan's cousin, he facilitates the rekindling of the romance between her and Gatsby. The Great Gatsby is told entirely through Nick's eyes; his thoughts and perceptions shape and color the story.
Jay Gatsby - The title character and protagonist of the novel, Gatsby is a fabulously wealthy young man living in a Gothic mansion in West Egg. He is famous for the lavish parties he throws every Saturday night, but no one knows where he comes from, what he does, or how he made his fortune. As the novel progresses, Nick learns that Gatsby was born James Gatz on a farm in North Dakota; working for a millionaire made him dedicate his life to the achievement of wealth. When he met Daisy while training to be an officer in Louisville, he fell in love with her. Nick also learns that Gatsby made his fortune through criminal activity, as he was willing to do anything to gain the social position he thought necessary to win Daisy. Nick views Gatsby as a deeply flawed man, dishonest and vulgar, whose extraordinary optimism and power to transform his dreams into reality make him "great" nonetheless.
Daisy Buchanan - Nick's cousin, and the woman Gatsby loves. As a young woman in Louisville before the war, Daisy was courted by a number of officers, including Gatsby. She fell in love with Gatsby and promised to wait for him. However, Daisy harbors a deep need to be loved, and when a wealthy, powerful young man named Tom Buchanan asked her to marry him, Daisy decided not to wait for Gatsby after all. Now a beautiful socialite, Daisy lives with Tom across from Gatsby in the fashionable East Egg district of Long Island. She is sardonic and somewhat cynical, and behaves superficially to mask her pain at her husband's constant infidelity.
Tom Buchanan - Daisy's immensely wealthy husband, once a member of Nick's social club at Yale. Powerfully built and hailing from a socially solid old family, Tom is an arrogant, hypocritical bully. His social attitudes are laced with racism and sexism, and he never even considers trying to live up to the moral standard he demands from those around him. He has no moral qualms about his own extramarital affair with Myrtle, but when he begins to suspect Daisy and Gatsby of having an affair, he becomes outraged and forces a confrontation.
Jordan Baker - Daisy's friend, a woman with whom Nick becomes romantically involved during the course of the novel. A competitive golfer, Jordan represents one of the "new women" of the 1920s—cynical, boyish, and self-centered. Jordan is beautiful, but also dishonest: she cheated in order to win her first golf tournament and continually bends the truth.
Myrtle Wilson - Tom's lover, whose lifeless husband George owns a run-down garage in the valley of ashes. Myrtle herself possesses a fierce vitality and desperately looks for a way to improve her situation. Unfortunately for her, she chooses Tom, who treats her as a mere object of his desire.
George Wilson - Myrtle's husband, the lifeless, exhausted owner of a run-down auto shop at the edge of the valley of ashes. George loves and idealizes Myrtle, and is devastated by her affair with Tom. George is consumed with grief when Myrtle is killed. George is comparable to Gatsby in that both are dreamers and both are ruined by their unrequited love for women who love Tom.
Owl Eyes - The eccentric, bespectacled drunk whom Nick meets at the first party he attends at Gatsby's mansion. Nick finds Owl Eyes looking through Gatsby's library, astonished that the books are real.
Klipspringer - The shallow freeloader who seems almost to live at Gatsby's mansion, taking advantage of his host's money. As soon as Gatsby dies, Klipspringer disappears—he does not attend the funeral, but he does call Nick about a pair of tennis shoes that he left at Gatsby's mansion.
Meyer Wolfsheim - Gatsby's friend, a prominent figure in organized crime. Before the events of the novel take place, Wolfsheim helped Gatsby to make his fortune bootlegging illegal liquor. His continued acquaintance with Gatsby suggests that Gatsby is still involved in illegal business.
Santiago - The old man of the novella's title, Santiago is a Cuban fisherman who has had an extended run of bad luck. Despite his expertise, he has been unable to catch a fish for eighty-four days. He is humble, yet exhibits a justified pride in his abilities. His knowledge of the sea and its creatures, and of his craft, is unparalleled and helps him preserve a sense of hope regardless of circumstance. Throughout his life, Santiago has been presented with contests to test his strength and endurance. The marlin with which he struggles for three days represents his greatest challenge. Paradoxically, although Santiago ultimately loses the fish, the marlin is also his greatest victory.
The marlin - Santiago hooks the marlin, which we learn at the end of the novella measures eighteen feet, on the first afternoon of his fishing expedition. Because of the marlin's great size, Santiago is unable to pull the fish in, and the two become engaged in a kind of tug-of-war that often seems more like an alliance than a struggle. The fishing line serves as a symbol of the fraternal connection Santiago feels with the fish. When the captured marlin is later destroyed by sharks, Santiago feels destroyed as well. Like Santiago, the marlin is implicitly compared to Christ.
Manolin - A boy presumably in his adolescence, Manolin is Santiago's apprentice and devoted attendant. The old man first took him out on a boat when he was merely five years old. Due to Santiago's recent bad luck, Manolin's parents have forced the boy to go out on a different fishing boat. Manolin, however, still cares deeply for the old man, to whom he continues to look as a mentor. His love for Santiago is unmistakable as the two discuss baseball and as the young boy recruits help from villagers to improve the old man's impoverished conditions.
Joe DiMaggio - Although DiMaggio never appears in the novel, he plays a significant role nonetheless. Santiago worships him as a model of strength and commitment, and his thoughts turn toward DiMaggio whenever he needs to reassure himself of his own strength. Despite a painful bone spur that might have crippled another player, DiMaggio went on to secure a triumphant career. He was a center fielder for the New York Yankees from 1936 to 1951, and is often considered the best all-around player ever at that position.
Perico - Perico, the reader assumes, owns the bodega in Santiago's village. He never appears in the novel, but he serves an important role in the fisherman's life by providing him with newspapers that report the baseball scores. This act establishes him as a kind man who helps the aging Santiago.
Martin - Like Perico, Martin, a café owner in Santiago's village, does not appear in the story. The reader learns of him through Manolin, who often goes to Martin for Santiago's supper. As the old man says, Martin is a man of frequent kindness who deserves to be repaid.
The Grandmother - An irksome woman who lives with Bailey and his family. During the family's journey to Florida, the grandmother suggests that they visit an old house she remembers, an idea that leads to a car accident and the murder of everyone in the group. Before she is killed, the grandmother remembers that the house is actually in Tennessee, nowhere near where she said it was. She tries to reason with the Misfit but only enrages him. She experiences a moment of grace right before the Misfit shoots her.
The Misfit - A wanted criminal who stumbles upon the family when they crash their car in the woods. The Misfit lives by a moral code that involves murder and remorselessness, but he also spends time wondering about Jesus. Because he doesn't know for sure whether Jesus really raised the dead, he has opted for "meanness" as a way of giving his life meaning. He doesn't see himself as a terrible person. His two henchmen kill the entire family, and the Misfit shoots the grandmother himself.
Bailey - The frazzled head of the family. Bailey seems to love his mother, but her needling behavior sometimes gets the best of him. He gives in to the grandmother's request to visit the old plantation house that she remembers only because the children are driving him crazy. When the grandmother's cat jumps onto his shoulder, he wrecks the car. He tries to quiet the grandmother and stop her from provoking the three criminals, but he is ineffective. He and John Wesley are the first to be killed by the Misfit.
John Wesley - A loud, obnoxious, eight-year-old boy. John Wesley wants to visit the house the grandmother talks about because she says it has a secret panel.
June Star - An obnoxious young girl. June Star loudly speaks her mind and makes cutting observations about those around her.
The Mother - Bailey's wife and the mother of John Wesley, June Star, and a baby. The mother breaks her shoulder in the car crash and is eventually killed by the Misfit's henchmen.
Red Sammy Butts - The owner of the Tower restaurant. Red Sammy is a good man according to the grandmother, trusting and even gullible to a fault.
Bobby Lee - One of the escaped criminals. Bobby Lee is fat and, according to June Star, looks like a pig.
Hiram - One of the escaped criminals. Hiram wears a gray hat and inspects the family's car.
Julian - An embittered recent college graduate who lives with his mother. Julian sells typewriters to make money while he halfheartedly pursues his ambition to be a writer. He has nothing but contempt for his doting mother, whom he believes has foolish, outdated manners and is detached from the realities of the changing world. Julian espouses the progressive ideologies of racial equality that he learned in college but finds himself unable to act on them or engage in any meaningful conversation with African Americans. He secretly longs for the comfort and privacy of his grandfather's mansion on the old family plantation, despite his avowed repudiation of the family's status as former slaveholders.
Julian's Mother - A middle-aged woman from an old southern family who is enrolled in an exercise class at the YMCA. Julian's mother dotes on her son and has made tremendous sacrifices so that he could have personal and educational opportunities. Julian's mother lives modestly and looks back longingly on the family history, reminiscing about the family plantation and the political and social influence held by previous generations of the family. She believes that the races should remain segregated and has a condescending way of treating blacks.
Carver's Mother - A tired and impatient black woman on the bus, the mother of young Carver. Carver's mother boards the bus and angrily chastises Carver for playing with Julian's mother. When Julian's mother gives Carver a penny, his mother flies into a rage and knocks Julian's mother to the ground with her large purse. She wears the same foolish purple-and-green hat that Julian's mother wears.
Carver - A four-year-old boy on the bus, the son of the imposing black woman. Carver seems oblivious to his mother's harsh attitude and tries to play with Julian's mother on the bus.
The Well-Dressed Black Man - A black man dressed in a suit and carrying a briefcase. He sits next to Julian on the bus and reads a paper, growing irritated when Julian asks him for matches. Julian wants to chat with the black man to make his mother uncomfortable but fails in his attempts to make small talk.
The Woman with the Red-and-White Canvas Shoes - A white passenger on the bus. She shares Julian's mother's narrow view of race and moves to the back row of seats when the black man in the suit boards the bus.
The Woman with the Protruding Teeth - A white passenger on the bus. She chats with Julian's mother about the heat and gets off the bus when the black man in the suit boards.
Mrs. Turpin - An overweight, 47-year-old woman with "little bright black eyes." She considers herself to be above those in lower social strata since she and her husband, Claud, own a home and land with a hog farm. She is physically attacked by Mary Grace in the doctor's office waiting room, and later has a revelation stemming from Mary Grace's accusation that she is "an old wart hog."
Claud Turpin - Mrs. Turpin's husband, he is "florid and bald and sturdy" and does whatever Mrs. Turpin tells him to do. He has an ulcer on his leg that makes it nearly impossible for him to walk
The dirty child - The son of the white-trash mother, he slumps in his seat and is lethargic with illness. His mother prefers him that way so that he won't be so troublesome to her. He is blond and wears "a dirty romper" and is the only one who does not react to Mary Grace's attack on Mrs. Turpin.
Mary Grace - A "fat girl of eighteen or nineteen," Mary Grace attends Wellesley College in Massachusetts, much to the chagrin of her mother. She wears a permanent scowl. Eventually, she throws the book she is reading at Mrs. Turpin's face and then attacks her.
The white-trash woman - A "lank-faced," dirty woman whose lips are stained with snuff. She annoys Mrs. Turpin by declaring that she does not understand why a person would own hogs, and by her general appearance and demeanor.
Mary Grace's mother - The gray-haired, well-dressed woman shares a bond with Mrs. Turpin because they are the only two women in the dressing room of the same social class. The looks they exchange imply a judgment of the other characters. She is embarrassed by her daughter's rudeness and negative disposition. She talks about Mary Grace as if she weren't there, saying that she is ungrateful for all the things in her life and that she can't take criticism.