Lily

  • appears strong and tough
  • sup­port of tru­isms to get her through life
  • hard fron­tier life shapes her char­ac­ter, phys­i­cal fit­ness b/o hard work
  • indi­vid­ual approach to life, pro­gres­sive atti­tude (enjoys mod­ern life: cars, being equal in mar­riage)
  • self-con­trolled, self-dis­ci­plined, loathes self-pity
  • mate­r­i­al wealth, the Amer­i­can Dream (although nev­er used as a term) is very impor­tant to her. Mak­ing mon­ey is almost an obses­sion.
  • edu­ca­tion mat­ters a lot to her: it’s a path to a bet­ter life for her and her fam­i­ly. It is a priv­i­lege for her to obtain edu­ca­tion and make mon­ey with it. She also edu­cates her own chil­dren.
  • strong­ly believes that peo­ple have a pur­pose and have to con­tribute to soci­ety
  • fam­i­ly life is very impor­tant to her
  • when she wants to reach a goal in life, she works for that goal, no mat­ter what
  • prac­ti­cal view on life makes her emo­tion­al­ly prag­mat­ic, that means she treats the mem­bers of her fam­i­ly more like co-work­ers. Just as she demands a lot from her­self, she is also very tough on her chil­dren. She is lack­ing empa­thy where empa­thy would be bet­ter. She deals with tragedy in death in the same way: Prag­ma­tism always comes first.
  • Being indi­vid­ual and want­i­ng to ful­fill her goals in life, she lacks the insight to grant the same rights to oth­er peo­ple, espe­cial­ly her chil­dren, but also Big Jim.

Rose­mary

  • rebel­lious, indi­vid­ual, free, loves nature
  • a real beau­ty (like Helen)
  • the author’s moth­er where all the “fac­tu­al” infor­ma­tion of the nov­el comes from
  • not inter­est­ed in edu­ca­tion (hates author­i­ty)
  • suf­fers under Lily’s rigid views and self-right­eous­ness
  • can’t be tamed by Lily — clos­er to her father (Jim is the heart of the fam­i­ly)
  • deter­mined when it comes to her goal: being free

Helen

  • weak, attrac­tive, sen­si­tive
  • more like the moth­er (angel in the house)
  • her dream in life is becom­ing an actress and mar­ry­ing a rich man
  • com­mits sui­cide despite the fact that Lily wants to help her.
  • She’s a catalysator for Lily’s next goal in life: get­ting mar­ried and start her own fam­i­ly

Robert Casey (Lily’s father)

  • suf­fers from a speech imped­i­ment and can’t move his right arm and leg prop­er­ly
  • Dur­ing Lily’s child­hood he’s the “man of her life”, teach­ing her every­thing he knows.
  • Where­as Helen is her mother’s daugh­ter, Lily is her father’s daugh­ter: mon­ey-mak­ing, set­ting and reach­ing goals, being tough, fol­lowong Amer­i­can val­ues (equal­i­ty, self-dis­ci­pline, self-reliance etc.)

Jim Smith (Big Jim)

  • big, strong, terse, steady, expe­ri­enced, down-to-earth, respect­ed, a real hero
  • 20 years old­er than Lily
  • Mor­mon
  • Lily’s part­ner, nev­er real­ly ques­tions her, always sup­ports her choic­es
  • under­stand­ing father, brings the warmth into the fam­i­ly that Lily lacks

Minor char­ac­ters

  • Daisy, the moth­er: the “angel in the house”, not suit­ed for the fron­tier life, no goals, dis­il­lu­sioned. Lily looks down on her.
  • Buster, the broth­er: pre­ferred by the par­ents when it comes to edu­ca­tion, but in a way wast­ed on him, a real charmer, but weak. Mar­ries Dorothy, who will take over run­ning the farm.
  • Ted Conover, Lily’s first hus­band: sales­man, dis­hon­est but also vital, mod­ern-appear­ing, full of life, talks a lot, tells jokes. Bigamist. A con-man. A mat­aphor maybe for the life in Chica­go, in civ­i­liza­tion.
  • Rex Walls: the author’s father. Bold, adven­tur­ous, skil­ful pilot, charm­ing. Has a lot of plans, always on the move. First opposed by Lily.

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