Spoon River Anthology Characters

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Spoon River Anthology Summary & Study Guide Description

Spoon River Anthology Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Spoon River Anthology by Edgar Lee Masters.

Ruben Pantierappears in Page 39

Ruben Pantier, son of Mr. and Mrs. Benjamin Pantier, addresses his epitaph to Emily Sparks, whose prayers for him, he says, "were not wasted." Ruben says the milliner's daughter made trouble for him and so he left Spoon River and traveled out into the world becoming intimate with women and wine. Ruben tells a particular story of an encounter he had one night in the Rue de Rivoli with a black-eyed coquette. Ruben says he cried thinking of Spoon River and Emily Sparks, but the Parisian girl thought the tears were for her.

Butch Weldyappears in Page 48

A few pages prior to meeting "Butch" Weldy, the reader learns that he raped Minerva Jones. Butch tells the reader that after he "got religion and settled down" he got a job at the Spoon River canning works, where each morning he had to fill the tank in front of the works with gasoline. One day he was on a ladder executing his daily task when the gasoline-filled tank exploded and sent him flying. Butch tells the reader he landed on the ground with both of his legs broken and his eyes fried to a crisp "like a couple of eggs." At his trial, Butch says, the judge determined that whoever caused the explosion was a fellow worker of Butch's so the owner of the canning works did not have to pay him for his suffering.

Fiddler Jonesappears in Page 83

Fiddler Jones tells the reader about a vibration that the earth keeps going in a man's heart. That's your essence, Jones says. Fiddler says he found he could fiddle and so he had to fiddle all his life. He says he had forty acres of land, but he could never turn it into any more because every time he would set to work someone or other would come by and sweep him off to some dance or picnic. Fiddler says he "ended up with forty acres . . . a broken fiddle—/ and a broken laugh, and a thousand memories,/ and not a single regret."

A.D. Bloodappears in Page 91

The reader learns from many characters that A.D. Blood was the several-time mayor of Spoon River and he favored conservatives and the status quo. Mr. Blood himself tells the reader that his life's work was good, as he closed the saloons and stopped the playing at cards, and led crusades against sin in general. Ironically, Blood tells the reader, Dora, the milliner's daughter, and Ruben Pantier make love on top of his grave!

Barry Holdenappears in Page 100

Barry Holden tells the reader he had eight children and another on the way one fall when he was sitting on a jury at the trial of a man who had murdered a pregnant woman. When Barry arrived home, he tells the reader, the first thing he saw lying in the ditch in their house was a hatchet. He walked in to the house and his pregnant wife immediately started talking about how they had mortgaged their house to Thomas Rhodes. Barry Holden killed her and their unborn child with the hatchet.

Judge Selah Livelyappears in Page 117

Judge Lively tells the reader he is five feet two and he worked as a grocery clerk while he studied law until finally he became an attorney. He says through his diligence and regular attending of church he became the attorney for the richest man in town and then became county judge. All through the aforementioned, Lively tells the reader, the "giants" of the town laughed at his height and mocked his clothes. For this reason, Lively says, he naturally made things hard for the giants when they came to court and stood at the bar and said, "Your Honor."

John Cabanisappears in Page 143

John Cabanis tells the reader he left the party of "law and order" to lead the liberal party not because of spite or forgetfulness or shiftlessness, but rather because he had a vision of democracy making every soul as "strong and fit to rule/ As Plato's lofty guardians." The reader learns in the Spooniad that, as the leader of the liberals, there was a bitter enmity between Cabanis and Thomas Rhodes, the leader of the Bank, and A.D. Blood the Mayor of Spoon River.

Archibald Higbieappears in Page 204

Archibald Higbie says he loathed Spoon River, and his loathing led him to Rome, where he lived among artists, spoke Italian and French, and did all he could to extirpate all trace of his roots. Archibald says he worked as an artist himself, but could never create anything with meaning. Archibald ascribes this deficiency in his work to a lack of culture in Spoon River; however, the shrewd reader cannot help but think the fault probably lay in Higbie's disowning of his roots.

Tom Merrittappears in Page 205

Tom Merritt tells the reader he first suspected his wife was cheating on him when she began acted strangely calm and absent-minded. Merritt knew for certain, he tells us, when one day he heard the door shut and saw Elmer Karr slipping out the back. Merritt says he intended to kill Karr on sight, but he ended up coming upon Karr unexpectedly, and Karr shot him.

Mrs. Merrittappears in Page 206

Mrs. Merritt says she was silent before the jury when the judge asked her if she had anything to say about her sentence of thirty years in prison, handed down to her for enticing her lover Elmer Karr to murder her husband Tom. She says she had warned Elmer to go far away, fearing she had maddened him with her body. Elmer did not heed her advice and Mrs. Merritt died in Joliet Prison.

Elmer Karrappears in Page 207

Elmer Karr asks the reader what it could possibly be but the love of God that caused the residents of Spoon River to forgive him for the murder of Tom Merritt and take him back into the fold. Somehow the people of Spoon River managed, though. Karr tells the reader he became penitent after being taken back. He went to church and rejoiced in the sacrament of Holy Communion.

Hannah Armstrongappears in Page 238

Hannah Armstrong tells the reader she sent a couple of letters to President Abraham Lincoln, petitioning him to discharge her sick son from the Army. She says she received no response from the letters. Finally she went to the courthouse herself and told a guard to tell the President, "It's old Hannah Armstrong from Illinois." The President admitted her. They laughed and talked about old times, and then Lincoln discharged her boy from the Army.

The Village Atheistappears in Page 259

The village Atheist tells the reader that in his life he was an avid non-believer. He states he was argumentative and well-versed in the arguments against God and an afterlife. Later in life, when he was diagnosed with a terminal illness, the Atheist tells the reader, he read the Upanishads and the "poetry of Jesus," which changed his perspective. The Atheist says this wisdom kindled a spiritual fire in his soul and led him successfully through the shadow realm of death. The Atheist final message to the reader and to all who live "through the senses" is that immortality is not a gift, but rather an achievement obtained only by those who strive mightily for it.

Zilpha Marshappears in Page 263

Zilpha Marsh tells the reader she was a medium in her life in Spoon River, who saw many spirits and spoke often of occultish subjects. The townspeople accused her of talking nonsense, she tells the reader. For her defense against that charge, she tells the reader that speaking to the people of Spoon River was like speaking to spiritual children: when one speaks to children, one must needs speak nonsense.

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