Lucas Beauchamp is one of the central characters in the novel, the man accused of murdering Vinson Gowrie. Although still vigorous, he is in his seventies as the story takes place. The black owner of a small cabin and farm on the Edmonds estate, Beauchamp is in fact a direct descendent of Carothers McCaslin, who founded the estate long ago. Beauchamp is self-assured to the point that he seems contemptuous of all who meet him. This is a dangerous trait for a black man in the South of the 1940s. Faulkner describes his face as ‘‘not arrogant, not even scornful: just intractable and composed.’’ For years, the county, it seems, has been waiting to teach him a lesson and put him in his place as a subordinate within this segregated culture. This may be one reason the white residents of Beat Four are so eager to lynch him, and even seem intent on burning him alive (hence, the frequent references Faulkner makes to the lynch mobs carrying gasoline).
Molly is Lucas Beauchamp’s wife, who feeds Chick after he falls in the creek at the beginning of the story. Faulkner describes her as a ‘‘tiny, doll-like woman.’’ She dies not long afterward, and when Chick next sees Lucas Beauchamp, he realizes Lucas is grieving. Chick had not, until then, understood that a black person was capable of such emotion.
Edmonds is the landowner on whose property Lucas Beauchamp lives; he is a friend of Gavin Stevens, Chick’s uncle, and now owns the two thousand-acre plantation founded by the patriarch Carothers McCaslin before the Civil War.
Ephraim is Paralee’s father, and has died by the time the central action of the novel takes place. He gives the young Chick a crucial piece of advice about how women and children are better than men at doing uncommon things.
Fraser is the son of the proprietor of the country store where the murder takes place. He had saved Lucas Beauchamp during an earlier fight with the locals. After the murder, he saves Beauchamp yet again, keeping the crowd at bay until the constable arrives to take Beauchamp into custody. He seems, therefore, an unusual person—secretly opposed to lynching and other racial violence.
Crawford Gowrie is the murderer of both his brother Vinson and Jake Montgomery. He enters the plot late in the novel, and not much is revealed about his personality—except that he would have to be vicious in the extreme to behave as he does.
Nub Gowrie is the father of the Gowrie boys, Vinson and Crawford. He is missing an arm, but nevertheless pulls a gun on the sheriff during the official exhumation. He is a classic denizen of Beat Four, living with his children alone on a piece of land from which they together pursue professions that are either marginal or outright illegal.
Vinson Gowrie is the man Lucas Beauchamp is supposed to have murdered. His family, the Gowrie clan, is considered the worst and most criminal group in Beat Four. Vinson himself is the only member of the family to have any business sense, and actually has both money in the bank and some property at the time of his death.
Miss Eunice Habersham
Miss Habersham is an elderly lady, a member of the oldest family in Yoknapatawpha County. Although she dresses elegantly, she lives in a decayed house at the edge of town with a pair of black servants. She grew up with Molly, Lucas Beauchamp’s wife; the two had been as close as sisters, even though Molly was black and Miss Habersham was white. The relationship partly explains why Miss Habersham is eager to help Beauchamp, the widower of her closest friend.
Hampton is the county sheriff. Faulkner describes him as ‘‘a big, tremendous man with no fat and little hard pale eyes in a cold almost bland pleasant face.’’ He is a farmer in addition to being sheriff, and is in fact brave and skilled at his job. He takes on Crawford Gowrie alone, even though he knows Gowrie will be armed, and thinks nothing of it.
Joe is the black son of one of Carothers Edmonds’s tenants. With Aleck Sander, he goes on the rabbit hunting trip at the start of the novel. After Lucas Beauchamp refuses the money Chick offers and Chick throws it on the floor, Joe helps Aleck Sander pick up the coins.
Legate is a farmer known as the best shot with a deer rifle in the county. When Lucas Beauchamp is in the Jefferson jail, Legate is stationed at the entrance of the jail with a shotgun, in an effort to warn off any lynch mob that might develop.
Lilley is the owner of a small store in Jefferson with whom Gavin Stevens speaks briefly at the start of chapter three. Although Lilley’s customers are black, and he even lets them get away with a little shoplifting now and then, he is eager to be present and help with the lynching.
Charles ‘‘Chick’’ Mallison
Chick is the sixteen-year-old from whose point of view the story is told; although much of the novel is focused on Lucas Beauchamp and Gavin Stevens, Intruder in the Dust is usually regarded as Chick’s story. Raised in a racist society, he is thoroughly bigoted at the beginning of the novel. When Beauchamp refuses the money Chick offers him at the start of the story, after Beauchamp has fed and cared for him, Chick is outraged; he feels that his race has been insulted by Beauchamp’s refusal to accept his subordinate status as a servant.
Yet when Beauchamp asks for his help after the murder, Chick does help him, summoning his uncle, Gavin Stevens, then going even further, exhuming what is supposed to be the body of the man Beauchamp has murdered. In the process, he discovers the beginning of the trail of evidence that will set Beauchamp free. He goes well out of his way to help a man his society has told him is both lowly and dangerously arrogant. In the process, he establishes much of the independence from his parents that he has been longing for.
Maggie Mallison is Chick’s mother. She is highly protective of Chick, and is not quite ready to let go and allow him to become an adult. Her husband, Charles Sr., Chick’s father, plays only a minor role in the novel, but he, too, is highly protective. One of Chick’s major challenges in life is getting his parents to allow him more independence.
It is Jake Montgomery’s body that turns up in what is supposed to be Vinson Gowrie’s grave when Chick, Aleck Sander, and Miss Habersham open it. Montgomery had run a saloon in Tennessee before being chased out of the state by the police after a man was killed in his place. He is working as a lumber buyer with Vinson Gowrie when last seen alive.
Paralee is the mother of Aleck Sander, Chick’s childhood playmate. Chick recalls playing around their cabin in bad weather, and also remembers the meals Paralee often cooked for Aleck Sander and him, which he ate without thinking the situation at all unusual, even though Paralee was black. She still lives in the cabin with Aleck Sander when Vinson Gowrie is murdered.
Sander is Chick’s black childhood playmate. He goes along on the rabbit hunting trip at the start of the novel, and is present when Lucas Beauchamp refuses to take the seventy cents Chick offers him, helping pick up the coins when Chick throws them on the floor. He is almost exactly Chick’s age, and the two are in fact as close as brothers. Chick assumes Aleck Sander will help him dig up Vinson Gowrie’s body, even though it is a dreadful and dangerous task, and in fact Aleck does help.
Skipworth is the constable in Beat Four. He takes Beauchamp under custody and keeps him chained to his bed until the sheriff arrives. Faulkner portrays him as ineffectual, describing him as a ‘‘little driedup wizened stonedeaf old man not much larger than a half-grown boy,’’ but Skipworth does have the wherewithal to keep the lynch mob at bay.
Stevens is Chick Mallison’s uncle, and is an attorney in the town of Jefferson, the county seat of Yoknapatawpha. He is a highly educated man, having been to Harvard and the University of Heidelberg before he went to law school long enough to become county attorney. He is a smalltown philosopher, loves to talk, and can be emotional. He is convinced from the start that Beauchamp is guilty, but is willing to consider the evidence and wants to prevent a lynching. He also becomes something of an ally of Chick against his parents; they want him to stay out of the Beauchamp affair, but Stevens lets Chick become ever more deeply involved. Where segregation is concerned, he is a moderate. He does not believe the federal government can force the South to treat its black neighbors better. Change will have to come from within the South.
Tubbs is the jailer guarding Beauchamp. Faulkner describes him as ‘‘a snuffy untidy potbellied man with a harried concerned outraged face.’’ He is torn to the point of being frantic as he guards Beauchamp; he wants to do his duty and keep the jail secure, but is unwilling to die merely to protect a black prisoner.
Sara Constantakis, Novels for Students: Presenting Analysis, Context & Criticism on Commonly Studied Novels, Volume 33, Gale-Cengage Learning, 2010