The principal character named Gant is Eugene Gant, the protagonist. However, it is his father who is most often referred to by just the last name. Many other members of this family are involved in the action. As the novel has very strong autobiographical components, "Gant" is usually considered equivalent to "Wolfe."
Eugene is the youngest Gant child, and through the first half of the novel, he is a lonely, love-starved boy. A book-lover, he finds salvation in reading and education, which is enhanced by his time in school, especially after he leaves home and attends college.
Other Gants are Eugene's brothers Ben, who tragically dies, and the untrustworthy Luke.
(William) Oliver Gant, Eugene's father, looms large in the novel. The "angel" of the title references the stone angels that Oliver, a stone-carver, creates. Oliver suffers from alcoholism and is a distant parent, even more so after he separates from his wife, Eugene's mother.