Yonnondio: From the Thirties Characters

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Yonnondio: From the Thirties Summary & Study Guide Description

Yonnondio: From the Thirties 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 on Yonnondio: From the Thirties by Tillie Olsen.

Mazie Holbrookappears in Every Chapter

Mazie is the main character, and the oldest of the Holbrook children. She is six years old at the beginning of the book, and eight at the end. When she is six, Mazie thinks of herself as very capable and knowledgeable about the world. In reality, she is quite ignorant, knowing nothing of life outside of a tiny mining town. Nonetheless, she has already learned about working hard, since she often helps her mother take care of the other children. As she starts to understand what a frightening place the world is, she asks her parents why bad things happen to them. Mazie is curious about the world around her, and proud when she learns to read at the country school. Later, after the family has moved to the slaughterhouse town, Mazie withdraws into herself, living in a fantasy world on a farm. Lost in an urban education system, she quickly falls behind at school, and her teachers tell her how stupid she is. Mazie begins to feel that she is ugly and shameful, and she wishes she could hide her ugly, ragged clothing. As she comes to terms with the rough social dynamics of city children, Mazie no longer helps out at home, as she is horrified by the situation there.

Anna Holbrookappears in Every Chapter

Anna is married to Jim, and she keeps getting pregnant. Anna was raised without much education, and married Jim young. She desperately wants a better life for her children, and wants them all to get an education. Anna tries so hard to take care of her children, but she has so little energy left that she does a bad job. When Jim beats her, she absent-mindedly beats the children. Sometimes, Anna has trouble paying any attention to what is going on around her, and she neglects her children terribly, unable to summon the mental or physical energy to take care of them. After so much poverty and stress, she is half crazy. Anna is tortured by the horrifying details of her squalid life, and when she looks around at her disgusting house, or at her children begging for medical care or food, she does not know how to begin solving her problems. After seeing posters at a health clinic, she becomes terrified of germs, sure that her children are going to get diseases, and it will be her fault for not cleaning. Anna so desperately wants her children to be happy, but she has no idea how to create a good life for them.

Jim Holbrookappears in Every Chapter

Jim is Anna's husband, and Mazie's father. He works various back-breaking, dangerous jobs to support his huge family, but he never seems to get ahead.

Will Holbrookappears in Every Chapter

Willie is Mazie's little brother, about two years younger than she is. In the slaughterhouse town, Willie becomes uncontrollable, running wild with his friends and being mean to his siblings.

Ben Holbrookappears in Every Chapter

Ben is the third Holbrook child, who gets neglected a lot, often cared for by Mazie. Ben has severe asthma.

Jimmie Holbrookappears in Every Chapter

In the earlier chapters, Jimmie is simply known as "the baby." Later, he turns out to have a beautiful, pure singing voice.

Bess Holbrookappears in Chapters 4-8

Baby Bess is delivered at home, with Mazie's terrified help. She is a very sick baby, because Anna is too sick and weak to take care of her properly, and Anna's milk is not nutritious enough.

Bess Caldwellappears in Chapter 4

Bess is the Holbrooks' neighbor when they live on their tenant farm. She helps out with the delivery of Baby Bess.

Old Man Caldwellappears in Chapter 4

Elias Caldwell is Bess Caldwell's father, and Mazie's stargazing companion. He teaches Mazie about astronomy, and when he dies, he tells Bess to give Mazie some of his books.

Sheen McEvoyappears in Chapter 1

Sheen McEvoy is a man who had his face blown off in a mining accident. The accident also makes him crazy, and he tries to kill Mazie before he falls to his death.

Ms. Krycksziappears in Chapters 5-8

Ms. Kryckszi is the Holbrooks' neighbor in the slaughterhouse town. She helps out when Anna is too sick to care for her children.

Else Bednerappears in Chapters 5-8

Else is an old friend of Jim and Anna's. She desperately wants children, but is unable to have any. As a result, she has a lot more money than the Holbrooks.

Erinaappears in Chapter 8

Erina is an epileptic, crippled, deformed girl whose family beats her. Mazie hates to look at Erina, but Mazie is kind to her.

Ginellaappears in Chapter 8

Ginella is a twelve-year-old girl who puts on dramatic games in the dump. She only plays with girls who bring her costume pieces.

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