Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Elmer Gantry, a brawny football hero and indifferent scholar at Terwillinger College. After his inadvertent conversion to Christianity, Elmer makes a successful, plagiarized speech that serves him for years. His call to the Baptist ministry is achieved with the aid of whiskey. After two years at Mizpah Theological Seminary, Elmer is given a small church, where he seduces (and forgives) Lulu Bains. Postponing an Easter meeting to drink with friends, he is asked to leave Mizpah. Later, he finds a job as an assistant to evangelist Sharon Falconer, who becomes his lover. After her death, a Methodist bishop helps him become a Methodist preacher. Elmer marries and gradually advances to larger congregations until he reaches the metropolis of Zenith. He remains obsessed with practical results, money, and power. After forming the Committee on Public Morals, Elmer raids Zenith’s red light district and acquires a number of honors. Eventually, he decides to unite all the moral organizations in America, with himself as head. As national director of morality, he will dictate what America should say and think. At the novel’s end, having survived all misadventures, Elmer looks forward to making America a truly moral nation under his guidance.
Frank Shallard, the son of a Baptist minister and Elmer’s fellow student at the seminary. Elmer accuses him of liberalism because he questions the Baptists’...
(The entire section is 833 words.)
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List of Characters
Cecil Aylston is Sharon Falconer’s assistant. He is a well-educated Englishman in his early thirties with a colorful past. He fell in love with Sharon when he first met her, and is devoted to her. After Sharon dismisses him in favor of Elmer, Cecil tries to conduct a rescue mission in Buffalo. He dies in a gambling den.
Barney Bains is a deacon at the Baptist church in Schoenheim and the father of Lulu. Bains initially forces Elmer to agree to marry Lulu, but later, after Elmer shows him Lulu kissing Floyd Naylor, he orders Lulu to marry Floyd.
Lulu Bains is the daughter of Barney Bains. Elmer tries to seduce her, but once she has become devoted to him he gets bored with her and treats her cruelly. She is forced by her father to marry Lloyd Naylor. Lulu later meets Elmer again many years later in Zenith, where they resume their clandestine affair. After Elmer dumps her for Hettie, Lulu loses interest in life.
Cleo Benham is the high-minded daughter of Nathaniel Benham. She engages in worthy activities at the church in Banjo Crossing, and falls in love with Elmer. Elmer at first returns her affection, and they get married. Elmer starts to detest her when he finds out that she is cold, sexually.
Nathaniel Benham is a trustee...
(The entire section is 1898 words.)