Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Malcolm, a fifteen-year-old who sits for months on a bench in front of a palatial hotel. When Mr. Cox finds Malcolm and suggests that the lad visit some addresses he knows, Malcolm makes the visits and hopes at times to find a new home, because his father has disappeared. Malcolm begins a journal and includes the conversations he hears at the addresses. Malcolm’s misunderstandings of many of the words he hears in the depraved society to which Mr. Cox introduces him provide much of the humor in the surrealistic novel. Malcolm eventually marries an older woman named Melba. When he scuffles with a man he believes to be his father, he cuts his head on the marble bathroom floor. The injury forces him to stay in bed. His hair turns snow white. He contracts a cold and pneumonia and informs Melba that he has also suffered the bite of a dog. When Melba informs Malcolm that he is dying, Malcolm requests to see Madame Girard. Madame Girard comes quickly, but Malcolm does not seem to recognize her. It is Madame Girard who provides Malcolm’s funeral.

Mr. Cox

Mr. Cox, the most famous astrologer and the greatest walker of his period and the source of most of the addresses Malcolm visits. Mr. Cox is also a pederast; Malcolm mistakenly believes this word means that he is a star gazer. After Malcolm’s death, the reader is told, a young man follows through on twenty-five addresses supplied by Mr. Cox.


Melba, the popular singing star who proposes marriage to Malcolm upon their first meeting. This older woman immediately sends her first husband, Gus, to “mature” Malcolm before the wedding, which is to occur a week later. Malcolm becomes Melba’s third husband. When Melba discovers that Malcolm is dying, she leaves and never returns. Melba marries her Cuban valet and is happy for five years. She...

(The entire section is 769 words.)