Mazie Holbrook: Jim and Anna’s eldest daughter. Although she is just six and a half years old at the beginning of the novel, she assumes many responsibilities in the house. She helps her mother start the fire, cook and care for her little brothers and sister. Her character changes as events progress in the novel, and as she becomes aware of her social position. Her own way of escaping the harsh reality is portrayed in her daydreaming and imaginary trances. She believes that stars are “lamps in houses up there, or flowers growin in the night" (46). According to most critics, had the novel been completed, Mazie would have been the revolutionary character in the narrative when she grows.
Anna Holbrook: Mazie's mother. She believes that education is the only way for her children to achieve upward mobility in society; she tells Mazie, “An edjication [education] is what you kids are going to get. It means your hands stay white and you read books and work in an office" (4). The violence she experiences from her husband is in part reflected in the violent attitude she displays towards her children as she shouts at and beats them constantly. In some parts of the novel, she is an active housewife, always busy with canning food or doing laundry. However, when she gets sick due to a miscarriage, she is usually sleeping and the house and kids are left unattended to.
Jim Holbrook: He is the patriarch of the Holbrook family. In his attempt to make ends meet, he moves from one job to another, first, a coal miner, next, a farmer, and finally a meat packer. He heads to the bar and gets drunk, as most other workers do, to escape from reality. The financial stress on the family is reflected on Jim’s violent attitude towards his wife and kids: “He had nothing but heavy blows to the children and he struck Anna too often to remember" (9). However, in some parts of the novel, he shows care to his sick wife and plays with his children.
Will and Ben Holbrook: Mazie’s younger brothers. Will is attached to Mazie in the beginning of the novel. However, as he grows a little older, he wants to be independent and to have his own friends, secret adventures and gadgets. Ben is weak in body and suffers from lung disease especially when the family moves to the smelly, unclean area next to the packing houses.
Jimmie and Bess Holbrook: The youngest son and daughter in the family. Although her role is very limited in the novel, Bess closes the unfinished novel with an optimistic tone when she grabs a jar lid and bangs it enthusiastically against the floor.