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Manus is the eldest son of Hugh, the headmaster of the hedge-school in Baile Beag. He is in love with Maire, who won't marry him because he doesn't have a job, an income nor land to provide for them. He throws away an opportunity to teach at a school which gives him all he needs to have in order to win Maire after finding out she kissed the English Lieutenant Yolland.
Owen is Manus' younger brother who is employed by the English Army to help Yolland anglicize the Irish placenames of the village. He grows to like Yolland, but after his disappearance leaves the English Army to enroll in the resistance.
Hugh is the headmaster of the hedge-school in Baile Beag. He's constantly inebriated and teaches the students to speak Irish, Latin and Greek, but no English. He's offered a prestigious position at a school which he accepts.
Sarah is a young Irish girl who has great difficulty speaking. With the help of Manus she is able to learn to speak her name, which he says is all she needs in order to make it in the world.
Yolland is a Lieutenant in the English Army who has come to Ireland to rename the placenames of the Irish country, replacing them with anglicized versions. He falls in love with Ireland and after a dance in the village of Baile Beag kisses Maire, who Manus is in love with. He goes missing the next day and causes the English Army to declare that they will destroy the village if he is not found in 24 hours.
Maire is a young Irish woman who desires to leave Ireland. She wants to learn English, which Hugh does not teach his students. She won't marry Manus as he doesn't have proper standing to take care of her. She invites Yolland to a dance and they kiss, which breaks Manus' heart.
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