The Janitor's Boy

by Andrew Clements
Start Free Trial

Who are the main characters of The Janitor's Boy?

The main characters in The Janitor's Boy are Jack Rankin; his parents, John and Helen Rankin; school principle Mr. Ackerby; Jack's grandfather Phil Rankin; and Eddie, a boy who lives in the steam tunnel.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Let's talk about the main characters in Andrew Clements's novel The Janitor's Boy. The story's protagonist is Jack Rankin, a fifth grader who is the son of the school janitor, John Rankin, who is another main character. Jack gets teased a lot at school because he is the janitor's son, and one day, he gets so fed up and angry that he sticks gum all over the bottom of a desk. Jack wants to get revenge on his father for being the janitor (and indirectly setting Jack up to be teased).

Jack gets caught by the principal, Mr. Ackerby, who punishes him by making him stay after school for the next three weeks to clean gum off of desks. Jack must work with his father at this task, and he is afraid that his parents will punish him even more, but they do not. His mom, Helen, reflects on how John was once a young man with a great deal of potential until he joined the army and left town. Helen doesn't want to talk to her son about John's decisions, knowing that her husband must do that for himself. Helen and John both realize that Jack is upset because John is the school janitor.

Jack continues his punishment, and he gets the opportunity to explore the school building and spend time with his father. One day, John talks to Jack about his own father, Phil Rankin, who was a car salesman. John resented working at his father's dealership and crashed one of the cars. His father told him that he would have to work to pay off the debt, and John got angry, insulted his father, and joined the army. Later, though, John learned that his father often gave cars away to people who were poor, and he came to realize that Phil truly wanted his son to learn about hard work and generosity.

As Jack continues to explore the school, he goes down into the steam tunnel, and he is surprised to find a teenager named Eddie living down there in a little apartment to escape his violent father. Eddie explains that he is not the first one to use the hideout and that "John the janitor" set it up for people who need such a refuge. When Jack talks to John about the hideout, he learns about his father's war experiences and their aftermath and how the previous school janitor saved John's life by giving him work. John now pays back that kindness by helping others in tough situations. Jack ends the story being proud that his father is a janitor.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on