A Lantern in Her Hand
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"A Lantern in Her Hand" Characters Analysis

By Bess Streeter Aldrich

historical fiction | 251 pages | Published in NaN

"Sometimes it all comes over me," young Abbie said to her fiance, "that I can do big things. It's ahead of me...kind of like a light in the woods that shines and stays far away. And when I read verse or hear music...or...sing...it beckons me one, and my throat hurts with wanting to do something great." Abbie Deal did do something great, even if it wasn't what she had dreamed of. And years later, when her children, raised in a rude sod hut, were prosperous men and women of a thriving state, she could say proudly, "I've seen everything...and I've hardly been away from this yard. I've seen the feeble beginnings of a raw state and the civilization that developed there, and I've been part of the beginning and part of the growth. But it's funny," she added, "I was always too busy filling up the youngsters and getting patches on the overalls to notice that I was part of the epic." A strong an vigorous picture of pioneer life. The magnificent story of a young girl who went West as a bride -- and helped to build a nation.


Estimated read time: 5 min read

List of Characters:

Abbie DealProtagonist
Will DealAbbie's husband
Margaret DealAbbie's daughter
Grace DealAbbie's daughter
Sarah DealAbbie's daughter
James DealAbbie's son
Charles DealAbbie's son
Frank DealAbbie's son
Harve GrahamAbbie's childhood friend
Ed MatthewsAbbie's neighbor
Mrs. MatthewsEd's wife
Grandma DealWill's mother
Grandpa DealWill's father
Grandma MatthewsEd's mother
Grandpa MatthewsEd's father
Dr. EdmondsThe local doctor
Miss BellAbbie's schoolteacher
Mrs. PalmerAbbie's neighbor

Role Identification:

Abbie Deal is the protagonist of the book "A Lantern in Her Hand" by Bess Streeter Aldrich. The story revolves around her life, struggles, and journey as a wife, mother, and pioneer woman.

Character Descriptions:

  1. Abbie Deal: Abbie is a strong-willed, determined, and compassionate woman. She is described as tall, with chestnut hair and deep blue eyes. She has a warm and caring presence, always putting her family's needs before her own.
  2. Will Deal: Abbie's husband, Will, is a hardworking and supportive partner. He is tall with a rugged appearance and a gentle demeanor. Will is a farmer and shares Abbie's dreams of a better life for their family.
  3. Margaret Deal: Abbie and Will's eldest daughter, Margaret, is a responsible and ambitious young woman. She takes after her mother in her desire to achieve more in life.
  4. Grace Deal: Grace is Abbie and Will's second daughter. She is kind-hearted and artistic, often finding solace in painting and drawing.
  5. Sarah Deal: Sarah is Abbie and Will's third daughter. She is independent-minded and adventurous, always seeking new experiences.
  6. James Deal: James is Abbie and Will's eldest son. He is hardworking and responsible, helping his father with farming tasks.
  7. Charles Deal: Charles is Abbie and Will's second son. He is studious and intelligent, with a passion for books and learning.
  8. Frank Deal: Frank is Abbie and Will's youngest son. He is lively and mischievous, always keeping the family on their toes.
  9. Harve Graham: Harve is Abbie's childhood friend and later becomes her neighbor. He is a loyal and reliable friend, always ready to lend a helping hand.
  10. Ed Matthews: Ed is Abbie's neighbor and friend. He is a kind-hearted and generous man, always looking out for Abbie and her family.

Character Traits:

  1. Abbie Deal: Determined, selfless, nurturing, resilient, resourceful.
  2. Will Deal: Hardworking, supportive, kind, patient.
  3. Margaret Deal: Responsible, ambitious, determined.
  4. Grace Deal: Creative, sensitive, introspective.
  5. Sarah Deal: Independent, adventurous, curious.
  6. James Deal: Hardworking, dependable, responsible.
  7. Charles Deal: Intelligent, studious, bookish.
  8. Frank Deal: Lively, mischievous, playful.
  9. Harve Graham: Loyal, reliable, helpful.
  10. Ed Matthews: Kind-hearted, generous, caring.

Character Background:

Abbie Deal was born and raised in a small farming community in Nebraska. She met and married Will Deal, a fellow farmer, and they started their life together on the prairie. Abbie had dreams of a prosperous and fulfilling life, and she and Will worked tirelessly to achieve their goals.

As the years passed, Abbie and Will faced numerous challenges, including harsh weather conditions, financial struggles, and the loss of loved ones. Despite these hardships, Abbie remained resilient and determined, always finding a way to overcome obstacles and provide for her family.

Abbie's background as a farmer's wife and pioneer woman shaped her character and values. She developed a deep connection with the land and a strong sense of community. Abbie's unwavering dedication to her family and her unwavering belief in the power of hard work and perseverance are central to her character.

Character Arcs:

Abbie's character arc in "A Lantern in Her Hand" is one of personal growth and self-discovery. At the beginning of the story, she is a young woman filled with dreams and aspirations. Throughout the book, Abbie learns to adapt to the challenges of pioneer life, finding strength and resilience within herself.

As Abbie faces hardships, such as the loss of loved ones and the struggles of raising a large family on the prairie, she learns the true value of family, community, and perseverance. She grows from a young woman with dreams to a wise and respected matriarch, guiding her children and grandchildren with love and wisdom.

Abbie's character arc showcases her transformation from a dreamer to a practical and resilient pioneer woman who leaves a lasting legacy for future generations.


  1. Abbie and Will: Abbie and Will have a strong and loving relationship. They support each other through thick and thin and share the common goal of creating a better life for their family.
  2. Abbie and her children: Abbie's relationship with her children is filled with love, understanding, and guidance. She instills in them the values of hard work, perseverance, and kindness.
  3. Abbie and Harve: Abbie's childhood friend, Harve, becomes a trusted neighbor and confidant. Their relationship is built on mutual respect and support.
  4. Abbie and Ed: Abbie and Ed have a close friendship, with Ed always being there to help Abbie and her family whenever needed.
  5. Abbie and her neighbors: Abbie's relationships with her neighbors, such as Ed Matthews and Mrs. Palmer, are characterized by mutual support and a sense of community.

Abbie's relationships play a significant role in shaping her character and the choices she makes throughout the book. They provide her with love, support, and the strength to face the challenges of pioneer life.