Joe Christmas does not know whether he is black or white. Faulkner makes of Joe's tragedy a powerful indictment of racism; at the same time Joe's life is a study of the divided self and becomes a symbol of 20th century man.
Byron Bunch: A mill worker in Jefferson and the man who is initially misidentified to Lena as Lucas Burch, the father of her baby. In his thirties, hardworking, and devout, Bunch leads a quietly regimented life.
Joe Brown (a.k.a. Lucas Burch): A gambler, bootlegger, and con artist. Young and tall, with a distinctive white scar beside his mouth, Joe Brown first appears in dirty overalls in search of work at the mill. Lazy, yet alert to any situation he can turn to his advantage, Joe moves in a confident swagger but has the tendency to jerk his head to the side and to look periodically over his shoulder.
Reverend Gail Hightower: A defrocked minister in Jefferson. Tall, overweight, with skin the color of “flour sacking,” Hightower was once the minister of one of the town’s major churches. He sought the post because his grandfather, a Confederate cavalryman, was gunned down in Jefferson while stealing chickens. Described as a “fifty-year-old outcast,” he was forced to step down after his promiscuous wife died in a fall from a hotel window in Memphis.
Joe Christmas: The novel’s protagonist, also known as Joe Hines or Joe McEachern. In his first appearance in the novel, Joe is a young man in his early thirties, dressed in creased serge trousers, a soiled white shirt and tie, and a stiff-brimmed straw hat. A wanderer, he has a rootless, overly independent quality to him that others frequently misinterpret as ruthlessness, loneliness, or pride. Biracial, he is often mistaken for—and “passes” for—a white man.
Mr. Hines (a.k.a. Uncle Doc): Joe Christmas’s biological grandfather. Uncle Doc is an unkempt, angry, and spiteful man whose violence and extreme behavior have landed him in jail more than once. Infamous for his crazed ravings, he uses his religious fundamentalism to justify his implicit belief in white superiority.
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