The adolescent protagonist of the story. Dave works on a plantation plowing fields during his summer break from school. Not quite a child but not yet a man, seventeen-year-old Dave struggles to win respect from the other fieldworkers even though he lacks the requisite maturity. Experiencing the turmoil and restlessness of adolescence, he grows resentful of his powerlessness and thinks that owning a gun will instantly make him a man.
Dave’s mother. Beneath Mrs. Saunders’s steely exterior lies a practical, upstanding woman caught between making her son Dave happy and doing what she knows is right. She suspects that buying a gun will bring trouble but can’t refuse Dave. She is the first to realize that Jenny died from a gunshot wound and forces Dave to tell the truth, even though she tries to downplay her own complicity.
Dave’s boss and the owner of a local plantation. Even though Mr. Hawkins seems to be a reasonable and fair employer, Dave still resents his authority on the plantation and in the community.
Dave’s father. A strict disciplinarian, Mr. Saunders seems more interested in Dave’s earning potential and keeping good relations with Mr. Hawkins than in his son’s happiness. He doesn’t mind using violence to maintain discipline at home.
The local store’s owner and shopkeeper. Amiable and plump, Joe lends the mail-order catalog to Dave, even though he thinks Dave is too young to own a gun. Still, he brushes aside his doubts and offers to sell Dave an old pistol that he has in stock for only $2.