- 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.
- 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
- 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
- Lily’s partner, never really questions her, always supports her choices
- understanding father, brings the warmth into the family that Lily lacks
- 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.