The novel begins with Lena Grove, a pregnant teenager who has hitched her way all the way to Jefferson, seeking the child's father, Lucas Burch. Arriving at his supposed work, she meets Byron Bunch, another outcast of society, who realizes that the man Lena is looking for is actually known as Joe Brown, the town drunk and bootlegger. Joe Brown is a dumb man who came to power by partnering with the newcomer, Joe Christmas.
Joe Christmas is an intelligent, outcast who holds a grudge against all of mankind for the way life has treated him. He was orphaned at a young age, and raised by an abusive man who passed the trait on to Christmas. Because of this Christmas has little success with woman, falling in love with a prostitute, only to be betrayed. He runs away from his home, and comes to this small town to work at the mill where he meets Byron and Brown. There he rooms with an older spinster, Ms. Joanna Burden. The two have an affair, but when things get serious, Christmas kills her. This is about the time Lena enters the town.
Byron, smitten with Lena, trys to shelter he from the town's current events between Brown and Christmas, waiting for the right moment to come before bending to Lena's persistence to find "Lucas". Christmas was born of black blood, but has lived his life as a white man, punished everytime he is found out. Ms. Burden, for her friendship with the black people. Byron and Lena for choices they have made on their own.
This report prepared by Amie Stanley