Coming of Age in Mississippi Characters
The main characters in Coming of Age in Mississippi are Anne Moody, Elmira Moody, Fred Moody, and Raymond.
- Anne Moody is the author, narrator, and protagonist of the memoir. Anne is an intelligent child who becomes increasingly angry over the injustices she witnesses. She becomes a civil rights activist.
- Elmira "Toosweet" Moody is Anne's mother. She works hard to support her family but becomes estranged from Anne, as she disapproves of Anne's activism.
- Fred "Diddly" Moody is Anne's father. He leaves the family when Anne is young.
- Raymond is Anne's stepfather. He becomes sexually interested in Anne, prompting her to leave Centreville.
Anne is the author, protagonist, and narrator of Coming of Age in Mississippi. She is the eldest daughter of two sharecroppers and spends the first four years of her life living in a shack on the White-owned plantation where her parents work. After her parents separate, Anne feels pressure to help support the family, and she begins doing domestic work for White families shortly after beginning fourth grade. Anne’s varied experiences with her White employers awaken her to the realities of economic injustice, as she realizes that White families typically have bigger houses, more land, and more job opportunities. Anne credits Mrs. Burke as her first true exposure to outright racism.
As Anne grows increasingly aware of the injustice around her, she begins to feel disconnected from her family. After Emmett Till is murdered by a lynch mob, Anne searches for an outlet for her anger and confusion, but her efforts to discuss the injustice of Till’s death are met with consternation. It isn’t until she finds a mentor in her teacher Mrs. Rice that Anne truly begins to understand the racial divisions in society. As she matures, Anne grows more and more determined to leave Centreville after graduating, as her burgeoning sense of injustice leads her to feel stifled among the conservative and closed-minded citizens. She devotes her time and energy to various hobbies, including basketball, piano, church activities, and academics. Her intelligence and work ethic allow her to maintain high grades despite having to spend the majority of her free time working.
After high school, Anne attends Natchez University, but she finds the conservative atmosphere oppressive. Her first foray into activism comes when she organizes a strike against the cafeteria for serving maggot-infested food. Emboldened by this experience, Anne transfers to Tougaloo College and becomes increasingly involved with civil rights activism. Activism comes to define Anne’s life in the following years, and she sacrifices her grades and her relationship with her family for her cause.
Anne’s passion and resolve is repeatedly tested as she faces violent opposition from White people, a mix of apathy and fear from Black people, and concerned opposition from her own family. As time passes, these factors all begin to impact Anne, and she grows disillusioned with the lack of results the movement has produced. She notes that the movement’s leadership often seems out of touch with the daily realities of more rural Black people, and she begins to resent the optimism and idealism that speakers like Martin Luther King Jr. espouse. The memoir ends as Anne questions whether her efforts have been worthwhile, even as she joins a group of activists on their way to another march.
Elmira “Toosweet” Moody
Elmira Moody, nicknamed Toosweet, is Anne’s mother. Her husband abandons her while she is pregnant with her third child, and she moves her family to Centreville to stay with relatives. Toosweet works hard to support the family, but she still struggles to keep her children fed. She begins dating and eventually marries Raymond, a man who gives her another six children and who finds himself incapable of financially supporting the family. Toosweet does not support Anne’s activism, and she frequently discourages Anne’s...
(The entire section is 1,155 words.)