Ash is an African-American servant to Major deSpain. He is described in womanly terms and is relegated to tending to camp. After Ike kills his first buck, Ash airs his resentment at not being allowed to hunt. When Major deSpain allows him to go out the next day, Ash shows himself to be an untrained and inept hunter.
See Hubert Beauchamp
Hubert Beauchamp is Ike’s uncle. Hubert promised Ike a silver cup full of gold coins as an inheritance; however, he gradually replaced the coins and then the cup with lOU’s. Ike rejects his own inheritance on the assumption that the gift from Uncle Hubert would be enough to live on. The worthless inheritance epitomizes the fruitless expectations of many Southern plantation families, most of whom lost their family fortunes in the Civil War.
See Theophilus McCaslin
See Amodeus McCaslin
See McCaslin Edmonds
General Compson is a close friend of the McCaslin’s and Major deSpain. Compson respects Ike for his woodsmanship and gives him his compass and his silver hunting horn. He also offers to house Ike after Ike leaves the family farm.
Major deSpain owns the land on which the men hunt. A former officer in the Civil War, Major deSpain now works in a bank and eventually sells off most of the hunting grounds to a logging company.
Cousin and guardian of Ike McCaslin, Cass attempts to convince his ward to accept his inheritance. Their complex dialog in part four of the story indicates that he and Ike do share a special bond that allows them to anticipate each other’s thoughts, though he is nowhere as near to Ike as is Sam Fathers. While he understands Ike’s position in regard to the family’s history, Cass views events with a more practical eye. He acknowledges the scandalous role his family has played in Southern history, but is content to let go the burdens of his past.
Sam Fathers is part Native American and part African American. Descendant of a Chickasaw chief named Ikkemotubbe, Sam teaches Isaac McCaslin to hunt the former lands of his ancestors. He is struck down mysteriously when Old Ben dies and shortly thereafter asks Boon to kill him and bury him according to Chickasaw tradition. It is Sam Fathers’s love of the land and respect for the hunt that make him an important role model for young Ike. Because he is the descendent of both chiefs and slaves, Sam represents a unique aspect of the human condition; his nobility is checked by the servile role he is given in society.
A descendant of Carothers McCaslin through her father, Terrel, Fonsiba is entitled to a one thousand dollar inheritance. She is also a product of his incest with her grandmother, Tomey.
Like Sam Fathers in that he is part Native American, Boon possesses none of Sam’ nobility, intelligence or hunting skill. Instead, Boon relies on brute strength to kill Old Ben.
See Hubert Beauchamp
See Isaac McCaslin
See Isaac McCaslin
First captured and subdued by Sam Fathers, Lion is a fearless mongrel hunting dog. Ike and the others know that only Lion is capable of baying an animal as strong and as smart as Old Ben. In finally doing so, Lion inadvertently ends the hunting trips.
Ike first learns of his grandfather’s sins through a farm ledger in which Uncle Buddy insists that the slave Eunice drowned herself. Uncle Buddy, a lifelong bachelor, cooked and did the housekeeping for himself and his brother Buck until Buck’s marriage to Sophonsiba and their subsequent move back into the big house.
Ike’s grandfather, Carothers McCaslin, owned a plantation and several slaves. His most important actions as they affect Ike are his adulterous relationship with his slave, Eunice, and his incestuous relationship with their daughter, Tomasina. It is Carothers’s role in the family’s history, and in the history of the South, to which Ike objects.
Isaac McCaslin, also known as Ike and Uncle Ike, is the central figure of “The Bear” as well as the larger work, Go Down, Moses. The son of Uncle Buck McCaslin and Sophonsiba Beauchamp McCaslin, Ike is the sole heir to the McCaslin plantation. Orphaned at an early age, Ike is raised primarily by his cousin, McCaslin “Cass” Edmonds. Nevertheless, he considers the part Native-American, part African-American Sam Fathers his ‘ ‘spiritual father.” Ike identifies strongly with Sam, whose woodsmanship and hunting skill he eagerly learns. Because of the lessons he learns from Sam Fathers in the woods, Ike chooses to reject his tainted inheritance and live instead the purer life of a carpenter. His business-minded cousin, McCaslin, tries to dissuade him, but Ike will not change his mind. His stubbornness, however, accomplishes little in the way of social progress; his own material deprivation is his longest-lasting achievement. For Ike, that is enough.
Sophonsiba Beauchamp McCaslin
As Buck’s wife and Ike’s mother, Sophonsiba tries valiantly to maintain her brother’s estate as well as restore her husband’s plantation. Her attempts to preserve delusions of grandeur contrast with the McCaslins’ lack of concern for elegant appearances.
Ike’s father, Uncle Buck, lost a card game to Hubert Beauchamp and as a result had to marry Hubert’s spinster sister, Sophonsiba. Ike is their only child. Along with his twin brother, Uncle Buddy, Uncle Buck lives in a log cabin on the family’s plantation and allows his slaves to live in the plantation house. After their marriage, Sophonsiba urges him to restore the house for their own use.
Old Ben, a bear who has eluded pursuers for years, is hunted every year by the hunting club on the final day of their trip. Boon Hogganbeck, with the help of Lion, finally kills him. His death symbolizes the death of the wilderness itself due to the encroachment of civilization and progress. Once he is dead, the group of hunters stop returning to the area.
Daughter of the slave Eunice and Carothers McCaslin, Tomey also bears her father a child, the son named Turl (Terrel).
Short Stories for Students, Volume 2, Edited by Kathleen Wilson, Published by Gale Research, New York, 1997.