This section contains 2,439 words
(approx. 9 pages at 300 words per page)
Jacob is one of the old black men. His sister Tessie was killed by white men in 1947. He carries his gun like a soldier, and he takes part in the final shoot-out.
Robert Louis Stevenson Banks
Cherry Bello is a seventy-four year old black man who owns a liquor and grocery store. He is one of the men who gathers at Mathu's house.
See Cherry Bello
Charlie Biggs is a big, fifty-year-old black man. All his life he has been timid and submissive, but he finally learns to stand up for himself when he kills his employer, the abusive Beau, who is going to shoot Charlie. After the killing, Charlie hides for a while but finally realizes he must come back to face up to the consequences. He believes that by his actions he has finally become a man, and he insists on being called Mr. Biggs. He is killed in the shoot-out with the lynch mob.
See Miss Merle
Beau is the aggressive, racist Cajun farmer who leases the plantation from the Marshall family. Beau attacks Charlie, who shoots him dead. He is mourned only by his own family.
Claude Boutan is one of Gil's older brothers. He drives a truck for an oil company. In the meeting at Fix's home, he says he will do whatever Fix decides.
Fix Boutan is the father of Beau. For many years he and his family and other like-minded whites have been able to take the law into their own hands. They have a long history of beating, killing, and abusing black people. As everyone expects, Fix wants to go to Marshall to lynch the killer of Beau. But two of his sons, Gil and Jean, oppose him, and Fix calls the lynching off. He says that the family must act as one, and if they disagree, he will not act. Fix says that he never wants to see his sons Gil and Jean again, but at the end of the novel there is a hint of reconciliation between Fix and Gil, as they sit together in the courtroom.
Gil is a student at Louisiana State University and he is an outstanding football player, the best fullback in the Southern Conference. Known as Salt because he plays so well with Cal, who is called Pepper, Gil desperately wants to be an All-American, like Cal. Unlike the rest of his family, he is not a racist, and after the killing of Beau he urges his father not to take the law into his own hands. He is bitterly upset when his father banishes him from the house.
Jean Boutan is one of Gil's older brothers. He is in his mid-thirties and owns a butcher's shop in Bayonne. Like Gil, he tries to persuade Fix not to send a lynch mob to Marshall, saying that they should allow the legal process to take care of the situation.
Matthew Lincoln Brown
See Calvin Harrison
Candy is the strong-minded, independent, thirty-year-old niece of Jack and Beatrice Marshall. Her parents were killed in an automobile accident when she was five, and she was mostly raised by Miss Merle and Mathu. Her boyfriend is Lou Dimes. Candy is small and thin, with close-cropped hair. She wants to protect Mathu, and she insists that it was she who killed Beau. It is also her idea to summon the men to bring shotguns and empty number five shells, so that they can all claim to have killed Beau. When Mapes arrives, Candy is vigorous in her defense of the black men, and contemptuous of Mapes. Later, she becomes resentful when all the men want to discuss the situation in private. Mathu tells her to go home, and Lou bundles her into the back seat of her own car. In the courtroom scene at the end of the novel, Mathu asserts his independence from her, while she and Lou are reconciled.
Chimley is a seventy-two-year-old black man who is fishing with his lifelong friend Mat when he is summoned to Mathu's house. His first reaction is fear, remembering how the white people react after any violent incident, but he puts this aside and decides to go. Before he leaves he tells his wife to make sure his food is ready for him when he returns.
See Dirty Red
Clatoo is one of the leaders of the black men. He drives many of them to Mathu's house in his truck, and he tells them to carry themselves like soldiers. He hates Fix because Fix's brother Forest tried to rape one of his sisters just before World War II. Like the other black men, Clatoo claims to have shot Beau. It is Clatoo who organizes the scheme whereby the men reload their shotguns, and it is he who stands up to Candy, telling her that the men are going to have a meeting without her. During the shoot-out, it is Clatoo who organizes the black men.
Coot goes to Mathu's house proudly wearing his World War I uniform. He says that when he got home from the war, a white man told him never to wear his uniform again, since people in that part of the world did not like black men wearing medals for killing whites. But the day of Beau's killing, Coot decided to wear his uniform and shoot anyone who laughed at him or told him to take it off. He claims he shot Beau when the Cajun would not stop coming toward him with his gun.
Lou Dimes is a white man who has been seeing Candy for three years. He works as a journalist for a newspaper in Baton Rouge, and appears not to share the racist attitudes of most of the white characters. He arrives at Mathu's house when Janey calls him and says that Candy needs him. Lou takes little part in the action himself but he closely observes and reports on what happens. In the shootout, the injured Mapes puts Lou in charge of the situation, and Lou unsuccessfully tries to negotiate a truce between Luke Will and Charlie.
Louis Alfred Dimoulin
See Lou Dimes
Dirty Red, one of the old black men, always has a self-rolled cigarette hanging from the side of his mouth. He is the last of his family, and he has a reputation for laziness. But he acquits himself well in the shoot-out.
George Eliot Jr.
Griffin is Mapes's young deputy. He is a slender, unimpressive man, ready to bully the defenseless but wary of anyone he thinks might fight back. Just before the shoot-out begins, he tells Mapes that he will not use his gun against white men in defense of black men.
Leroy Hall is a boy of seventeen who associates with Luke Will and his friends. He is wounded in the shoot-out and whines like a coward.
Calvin, known as Cal, is a black football player who plays alongside Gil so well that the two of them are known as Salt and Pepper. Cal has been nominated for All-American.
Glo Hebert is the grandmother of Snookum, Toddy. and Minnie.
Herman is the coroner who collects Beau's body. He is in his mid-sixties.
Beulah Jackson is Rooster's wife. She says she is ready to go to jail with the men.
Reverend Jameson is the only black man who does not have a gun, and he is despised by the other men. He is short and bald, with a white mustache and beard. He is scared of what may happen and pleads with the men to go home, but no one listens to him. But even Reverend Jackson refuses to give Mapes the answers he wants, even when Mapes hits him.
Janey is the housekeeper at the Marshalls' house. She is scared when Snookum tells her about the killing, and repeatedly calls on Jesus to help her. Miss Merle bullies her into making a list of people who do not like Fix.
Bing Lejeune is a mulatto who is one of the men at Mathu's house.
Ding Lejeune is Bing's brother. He has a grudge against Fix because he believes his sister's child was poisoned by one of the Cajuns.
Mapes is the white sheriff. He is in his late sixties, about six feet three, and heavy. He is a bully and starts his investigation by hitting three black men in quick succession. With the exception of Mathu, he does not respect the blacks. However, Mapes does try to avoid more bloodshed by instructing one of his men to keep Fix away from the house, and trying to persuade Mathu, whom he believes is guilty, to turn himself in. He also learns to respect Charlie Biggs. Mapes is slightly wounded in the final shoot-out, and has to sit on the porch, unable to get up. In the courtroom scene, he is embarrassed by having to admit his inability to do anything to stop or resolve the shoot-out.
Beatrice Marshall is Jack's wife. She shows no interest when she hears that Beau has been killed, since she has never liked him.
Jack Marshall owns the plantation but takes no interest in it, passing his responsibilities on to his niece, Candy. He drinks every day in Tee Jack's store, and seems to have no interest in anything in life. He knows that the situation at Mathu's house is dangerous but he refuses to do anything to defuse it.
Mat is seventy-two-years old; his closest friend is Chimley. He and Chimley decide that for once in their lives they are going to stand up for themselves against the whites. Mat refuses to tell his wife where he is going, and they quarrel. He weeps with anger over injustices that his family has suffered but he is determined finally to do something with his life.
Mathu is a black man in his eighties. He is tall and dark-skinned, and is proud of having no white blood. His ancestors came from Senegal in Africa. Mathu is the only one of the blacks who all his life has stood up for himself, not letting the whites push him around. He once beat Fix in a long fistfight. This is why Mapes is so ready to believe that Mathu killed Beau, since Mapes does not think any of the other blacks would have been capable of it. Mathu helped to raise Candy, and that is why she tries to protect him, but he is willing to take the blame for the killing of Beau, even though he did not do it.
Miss Merle is a family friend of the Marshalls. She helped to raise Candy and has known her for over twenty-five years. Janey thinks she is good-natured, but Miss Merle has a patronizing attitude toward the black men. When she takes sandwiches to the people in Mathu's house, she expresses anger to Candy and Mapes, and is bewildered by the strange situation.
Johnny Paul is one of the first of the old men to say he shot Beau. He reminisces about the past, when the blacks worked in the fields with hoes and plows from dawn to sunset, before the days of the tractor. He says he killed Beau to stop the tractors plowing up the graveyard and erasing all memory of his own people.
See Calvin Harrison
Gable Raund is one of the black men who claims he shot Beau, and he refuses to change his story even when Mapes hits him. He is angry because over forty years ago his sixteen-year-old son was sent to the electric chair after being unfairly convicted of raping a white girl.
Rooster is married to Beulah Jackson. Clatoo describes him as "yellow, with nappy black hair."
Rufe is one of the first of the black men to arrive at Mathu's house and one of the first to claim that he shot Beau.
Russell is the deputy charged by Mapes to stop Fix coming to Marshall.
See Gil Boutan
Sharp is one of the whites who accompanies Luke Will in the lynch mob. Like Luke Will, he is a truck driver.
Snookum is the young boy who is sent by Candy to tell the neighbors to assemble at Mathu's house. He lives with his grandmother, Glo Hebert, and has a sister, Minnie, and a brother, Toddy.
Thomas Vincent Sullivan
Sully is a friend of Gil and Cal. Like them, he is a football player, although a mediocre one. His main hobby is watching television. It is Sully who drives Gil to his father's house.
Tee Jack owns a grocery and liquor store. He is a racist and does not care who knows it. He is intimidated by Luke Will and his friends when they come into the store, and he has to be careful of what he says in case they cause trouble.
See Tee Jack
Cedric Tucker is a quiet black man who usually keeps himself to himself. At Mathu's house, he tells the story of his brother Silas, who was the last black sharecropper at Marshall. Silas was killed by the whites in a fight after he had dared to perform better with his two mules than Felix Boutan did on his tractor.
Billy Washington is one of the old black men. He is a terrible shot, and could not hit the side of a barn. The others tease him about it. Mapes hits him but he continues to insist that he shot Beau. He says it was because Fix and his men beat his son so hard his brain was permanently damaged.
Luke Will is a truck driver and a friend of Beau. He is big and rough looking, and is a racist who leads the lynch mob to Marshall. He is killed in the shoot-out.
Yank is one of the black men who go to Mathu's house. He is in his early seventies, and he used to break in the horses. He resents the whites because their tractors rendered horses unnecessary.
This section contains 2,439 words
(approx. 9 pages at 300 words per page)