Major Carteret is the patriarch of the Carteret and Merkell clans. He is the editor of the Chronicle and uses his aristocratic heritage and public platform to advocate for racial purity and white supremacy.
Olivia Carteret is the wife of Major Carteret. She comes from an aristocratic family. She is the half-sister of Janet Miller. She gives birth at a late age in life.
Mammy Jane is Olivia Carteret's nursemaid and caretaker. She had also been Olivia's mother's maid and caretaker. She represents an older generation of African Americans who were protective of the segregation dynamics of the South.
Polly is Olivia's aunt. She cares for Olivia as a child and comes to live with the Carteret family at Dodie's birth.
Dodie is Olive and Major Carteret's son.
Dr. Price is the Carteret's family doctor. He is liberal in his views towards race relations but, nonetheless upholds the institution of segregation and racism.
Dr. Burns is a Philadelphia specialist called in to perform surgery on young Dodie Carteret. He is a former teacher of Dr. Miller and is horrified at the segregation he sees perpetrated upon Miller on his journey south.
Dr. Miller is an African American doctor of mixed race in the town of Wellington. He is a very educated man who studied in Europe and is well respected in his field. He purposefully came back to his hometown of Wellington to open a hospital for the black community. The novel's climax is Dr. Miller's search for his wife and son and his decision to treat the Carteret's sick son.
Tom Delamere is the privileged son and heir of the Delamere family. It is revealed that Tom is a drinker, gambler, and morally lax individual. He impersonates Sandy and murders and robs his aunt Polly Ochiltree.
Lee Ellis is an editor at the Morning Chronicle. He is in love with Clara Pemberton, though Tom Delamere thwarts his love. He is sympathetic with black civil rights but often does not do enough to act on his convictions.
Captain McBane is a former slave driver and Confederate officer that became rich by exploiting prison labor. McBane is interested in advancing in Wellington society, and he works with Carteret and General Belmont to come up with a plan to advance white supremacy. He is a very violent and unstable man.
General Belmont is a former Confederate General and aristocrat who works with Carteret and McBane to advance a platform of white supremacy.
Jerry works for Major Carteret at his newspaper. He is an African American who is servile to the white ruling class in order to ensure his own economic gain and survival. He is depicted as being cunning and conniving. He dies in the mob violence of the riots.
Josh Green is a poor black man in Wellington whose father was killed by McBane. He is angry and takes the incident of the riot as a chance to fight against white domination. He kills and is killed by Captain McBane.
Sandy is the Delamere's servant who is falsely accused of the murder of Polly Ochiltree. He is nearly lynched before Old Mr. Delamere's false testimony saves him.
Old Mr. Delamere is the patriarch of the Delamere family. He is a man of integrity and honesty and is quietly sympathetic to black civil rights.
The Marrow of Tradition Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for The Marrow of Tradition is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
The book’s title comes from a line in a poem by Charles Lamb, a nineteenth century English writer. The book’s epigraph contains a few lines from the poem; “I like you and your book, ingenious Hone! / In whose capacious all-embracing leaves / The...