Last Updated on August 6, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 660
Olympia is an albino hunchback with dwarfism. She is a middle child, lacking both the freakish appearance needed to draw in an audience and the talent needed to impress her parents. She is very submissive to her parents and also to Arturo, yet she is not afraid of using people for her own ends, as she does with both Chick and Arturo in the instance of her impregnation. As a parent, she is highly controlling, stalking Miranda closely, even when she is a full-grown woman of 18.
Arturo is the oldest sibling, and is confined to a wheelchair since he has flippers in place of hands and feet. However, he is conveyed as athletic and physically assertive. He portrays himself as the leader of his siblings, yet this seeming self-confidence stems from insecurities about his value to the family freak show. He complains to Olympia that he is not freakish enough to attract audiences simply by virtue of his appearance (like his twin sisters) and must therefore think creatively to keep himself at center stage.
Iphigenia "Iphy" and Electra "Elly" Binewski
These characters are conjoined twins who share legs and a digestive system, though their defining physical trait is being conventionally attractive like their mother. As people, they are polar opposites, with Electra being sharp-tongued and assertive and her twin proving quiet and submissive. While both twins have strong affection for their younger brother Chick, both are cold and dismissive towards their younger sister Olympia. Electra is alone among her siblings in mistrusting Arturo, and she warns her twin on more than one occasion to take care around him.
Fortunato, or Chick, has no unusual physical characteristic, but he is capable of moving objects using his mind. He is a quiet, sensitive, and good-natured boy, suffering from an empathy so strong that he actually feels the pain of those around him. Though he is obsessed with helping people, his desire to be loved makes it easy for his older brother to manipulate him and to use his powers in the service of his cult.
Aloysius "Al" and "Crystal" Lil Binewski
Both parents are highly abusive—especially in how they denigrate Olympia for not being "marketable" enough but also in the fact that they deliberately cause the mutations in their children that made them "marketable" in the first place. While the father portrays himself as a genius in the eyes of his children, this glamor begins to crack in their eyes as they grow older. His lack of creativity means that he can think of no more lucrative use of Chick's powers than for petty theft and gambling.
Crystal is very attractive at the start of the novel, though her looks (as well as her mental faculties) decline as it proceeds. A barely functioning drug addict, she ends up in a state of mental instability after Chick kills her husband.
Miranda is Olympia's daughter and has a small tail, which she makes good use of for financial gain. She is very beautiful and comes across as somewhat empty-headed at first—though, in truth, she is a medical student with a keen and inquisitive mind; she is fascinated by the more unusual examples of human anatomy. Kept in the dark for most of her life by her mother regarding her family's history, she spends years wishing she was normal and is thus enchanted by Miss Lick's promise to remove her tail.
Miss Lick is a friend of Miranda's who Olympia meets while keeping watch on her daughter. She presents a cold and hostile front to the world, yet in truth she is mostly just awkward (though in an appealing way) as Olympia discovers once she gets to know her. She is very envious of women who are more attractive than she is and has spent her life alone and friendless, feeding off her envy. She has little romantic experience, which she blames on her tall, Amazonian build.