Darly is Pace’s sixty-eight-year-old ranch hand. Like Hattie, he comes from the East Coast. Darly inadvertently causes Hattie to break her arm, but he never apologizes for his mistake. Throughout the story, he and Hattie are seen as behaving antagonistically toward each other, each annoyed by the others’ tacit accusations of being a drunk. In reality, they are uncomfortable with the mirror image each presents to the other.
Pace, one of Hattie’s neighbors, runs a dude ranch. He offers to help Hattie out by giving her a monthly stipend, but only in return for her leaving the house to him after her death.
Helen Rolfe is a neighbor of Hattie’s. She and her retired husband live comfortably, able to afford such luxuries as new cars and vacations. She is Hattie’s friend, but Hattie also harbors resentment toward her for her life of relative ease.
Jerry Rolfe is Hattie’s neighbor and perhaps her only real friend. Hattie respects what Jerry says and confides her problems to him, as much as she is able. Jerry also is the only person who truly seems to understand Hattie’s pride and circumstance. He makes significant efforts to help Hattie out after she breaks her arm, but he is unable to find someone who will look after her the same way he and his wife do.
Hattie is the protagonist of the story. Originally from the East Coast and a city woman, Hattie came out West decades ago. She wants to be a ”rough, experienced” western woman, but in reality, Hattie cannot take care of herself. She has no close friends; indeed, her only friends in the story are a neighbor couple, the Rolfes, but Hattie demands too much from them. She has already chased away or been chased away by her family, including a husband and a lover. Now, at the age of seventy-two, with a broken arm, Hattie finds herself essentially alone and isolated from any sort of community. In her helplessness, she grows to understand both the precariousness of her own situation and her relationships with others in her community. Despite this realization, Hattie does little to repair these relationships. Instead, her search within herself leads to an affirmation that her identity is intrinsically linked to the house itself. The story’s final action—Hattie’s willing of her house to herself—seems to further reiterate her self-imposed isolation.
Amy Walters is a self-sufficient miner’s widow. She lives about twenty miles away from Hattie, and Jerry Rolfe approaches her with the suggestion that she and Hattie live together. Amy, however, can well take care of herself, and she will only help Hattie out in return for inheritance of her house.
Jennifer Smith – Short Stories for Students – Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Short Stories, vol. 12, Saul Bellow, Published by Gale Group, 2001.