Dred is the story of Nina Gordon, an impetuous young heiress to a large southern plantation, whose land is rapidly becoming worthless. It is run competently by one of Nina's slaves, Harry, who is, unbenknownst to her, his half-sister and endures a murderous rivalry with Nina's brother (also Harry's half-brother), Tom Gordon, a drunken, cruel slaveowner. Nina is a flighty young girl, and maintains several suitors, before finally settling down with a man named Clayton. Clayton is socially and religiously liberal, and very idealistic, and has a down-to-earth perpetual-virgin sister, Anne. The slave characters include Harry, the administrator of Nina's estate, Milly, actually the property of Nina's Aunt Nesbith, and a devout Christian and Tomtit, a joker-type character. There is also a family of poor whites and their single, slavishly devoted slave. The titular character is Dred, an escaped slave living in the Great Dismal Swamp and preaching angry and violent retribution for the evils of slavery, rescuing escapees from the dog of the slavecatchers.