Tom Powell is a quiet man who comes from a poor family in North Carolina. He is described as being stocky, strong, perpetually red-faced from working in the fields, with a strong mouth framed by a blond mustache. He meets and marries Ginny Peace, pleased that in marrying her he stands to inherit her father's hundreds of acres of farmland. Because Tom grew up with a poor family and a father who was killed during the Civil War, Tom does not have any land of his own. When he marries Ginny, Tom immediately sets to work on her father's land, greatly improving the productivity of the land and making more money from the land than anyone in the family expected. It is clear that Tom is a workaholic and that he hoards his money, although it is unclear whether he does so out of control or out of fear for the future. The relationship between Tom and the Peace family begins to unravel when his wife, Ginny, starts attending Pentecostal revivals again.