In "Indian Camp" and "The Doctor's Wife," Nick Adams is a thoughtful, curious child, more attached to his father than to his mother. He experiences the end of young love in "The Three-Day Blow." Nick grows bold; in "The Battler" he goes train-hopping and gets in an altercation with some homeless men. Nick is wounded in World War I (Chapter 6) and returns to what seems to be the Great Lakes area in "Big Two-Hearted River." On his return, he craves solitude and contact with the outdoors. Nick makes a successful return to civilian life, mainly by recreating the better parts of his military experience.
Virginal, awkward Hubert Elliot has been fooled into an unhappy marriage. After trying and failing to conceive a child with his wife, he writes long poems while in France and drinks too much.
Harold Krebs leaves college to serve in World War I and then returns home too late to get a hero's welcome. He avoids involvement with any women except his younger sister. Uncomfortable with small-town life in Kansas, he cannot adjust to his former home.