Delotha Todd, his mother, a vibrant, ambitious woman who has left Hopewell for Chicago to better herself. After Armstrong’s death, she is determined to replace him with another son. This obsession wrecks her marriage and nearly ruins the life of her younger boy.
Wydell Todd, Armstrong’s father, an attractive man who loves Delotha but is overwhelmed by her. Whenever she shows more interest in her ambitions or her children than in him, Wydell drowns his sorrows in drink. When Delotha turns to him for help, as she does at the end of the novel, he can be a nurturing and responsible father.
Lily Cox, a young white woman from a poor family who quit school at the age of sixteen to marry Floyd Cox. After the murder, she becomes the target of her husband’s frustrations, and eventually she is sent to a mental institution. She finally takes refuge with her daughter Doreen.
Floyd Cox, Lily’s husband, the owner of a pool hall patronized by African Americans. Floyd is a coward and a bully, governed by his fear of the whites who run his community, of his black customers, and, above all, of his father and his brother. After killing Armstrong, he loses his business and spends the rest of his life picking fights, stealing, serving time in prison, and blaming everyone but himself for his misfortunes.
Clayton Pinochet, the publisher of the Hopewell newspaper and the son of Stonewall Pinochet of Pinochet Plantation. A well-meaning, decent man, Clayton disapproves of his father’s rapaciousness but can defy him only by secretly aiding those he knows are right. Although he finally offers to marry his black mistress, she rejects him because she knows that he is too weak to live with his decision.
Ida Long, a small, young black woman who shares with Lily the dream of escaping from Hopewell. Ida is a woman of strong convictions who stays in Hopewell only to care for her foster father. She finally demands and gets her rightful share of her white father’s property.