Study Guide

The Darrows in The House of Dies Drear

By Virginia Hamilton

The Darrows

It's easy to see the Darrows as "the bad guys." They do some awful things – coming into the Smalls' house when they are sleeping, even breaking into Mr. Small's office, vandalizing the Small's kitchen, trying to terrorize the aging Mr. Skinner. They are basically "flat" characters, generic bad guys. We don't see into their lives. But we do find out that the Skinners and the Darrows have been battling each other for a very long time. The Darrows obviously feel they have as much right to the Dies Drear treasure as the Skinners.

Since there are about seven Darrows mentioned in the story, and since most of their names are River, we thought you might like this who's-who in the Darrow family tree:

River Thames: The information on River Thames (pronounced "tims") is given by Mr. Skinner, who got it from River Swift. Both Mayhew and Mr. Pluto doubt the accuracy of the information. According to River Swift, River Thames was part Mohegan Indian. He came with Dies Drear from New England and was said to be hiding in the house when Dies Drear was murdered by bounty hunters. Mr. Skinner and Mayhew think he was a person running from slavery.

River Swift: River Swift died about ten years before the story begins and seems to have been of the same generation as Mr. Pluto (a.k.a. Mr. Skinner). River Swift was friends with Mr. Pluto when they were young, but turned into his enemy when they began battling to find the Dies Drear treasure.

River Lewis Darrow: This is the father of Mac, Russell, River Ross, and Wilbur Darrow, and the adopted father of Pesty. Like his father before him, he wants to find the treasure, and has involved his sons in the endeavor. But, it seems he might have had a change of heart. Apparently, after he sees the Smalls in church, he tells his sons to leave them alone. Sadly, they don't listen to him.

Mama: She's River Lewis's wife, mother of the boys, and adopted mother of Pesty. We don't meet her in the story.

River Ross, Russell, and Wilbur: These are Mac's brothers, the ones doing all the mischief. They are presented as mean people, as the villains of the story.