Grant Wiggins - The protagonist and narrator of the novel, an elementary school teacher in his mid-twenties. Grant is intelligent and willful, but also somewhat hypocritical and depressed. A lifespent in a segregated, racist community has made him bitter. He has no faith in himself, his society, or his church. He does not believe anything will ever change and thinks escape is the only option.He fears committing himself to a fight he cannot win. This defeatist attitude makes him shun responsibility, and he resents Tante Lou and Miss Emma for forcing him to help Jefferson. Over the course ofthe novel, however, he learns to accept responsibility for his own life, for his relations with other people, and for his role as an educator and agent of change in his needy community.
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Jefferson - A sincere, sensitive, young black man of below-average intelligence. When his lawyer calls him a “hog,” Jefferson takes the insult to heart and beginsto consider himself powerless in the white-dominated society. He becomes sullen and withdrawn, accepting a living death and therefore becoming a dark symbol of his oppressed people. Grant attempts toheal Jefferson’s pain. He believes that Jefferson can stop symbolizing the troubles of the black community and start symbolizing positive change.
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TanteLou - Grant’s aunt, and a deeply religious woman. Tante Lou resents Grant’s cynical atheism, perhaps because she feels it reflects badly on the way she raised him. Tante Lou took in Grant when hisparents moved away and became a mother figure to him. Although she lives a troubled life under a harsh, racist system, she finds freedom for her soul in the church, her family, her dignity, and herpride.
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Miss Emma - Jefferson’s godmother. Miss Emma possesses great faith in God. After hearing Jefferson’s lawyer call Jefferson a hog, she becomes...
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