The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

In A Generous Man, Milo comes of age. This development in many ways is the subject of the novel. As the title implies, Milo learns to become a generous man: “generous” as that term applies to adult relationships and a “man” as the word connotes maturity rather than chronological age. Milo learns to give as well as take in his relationship with Lois, and he learns that manhood has little to do with years.

Although Price compresses time to allow hours to stand for months, so that by the end of the novel Milo has developed several years’ worth of maturity, the independence of maturity from chronological age is not farfetched. At the novel’s beginning, the reader meets a cocky, swaggering Milo, proud at having “conquered” his first female. The protagonist thinks that his sexual initiation has made him a man. What Milo does not know, and what Lois cannot teach him, is that the mature male both gives and takes. Frustrated that her lover seems interested only in taking, Lois continually emphasizes the necessity to “give” in a relationship. At the novel’s beginning, Milo tries to arrange another meeting with Lois. His clumsiness upon their initial encounter brings this reply from the girl: “Wait till tonight—what for, I ask you? Forty-five minutes in dirty pine straw with a teen-age farmer that I’ll never see after sunup tomorrow? If that’s all you’re offering, if that’s all you’re hauling me round town for, you can keep it, boy.”

Using this same rebuke as a stepping stone, Milo sets out on his quest for self-understanding, his rites of passage, in the form of the search for the missing trio. By juxtaposing Milo’s actions to those of the “older, more experienced” men in the posse, Price shows Milo learning and growing. A vivid imagination haunts the protagonist, making him question his constant desire for sex and forcing his conscience to...

(The entire section is 785 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Milo Mustian

Milo Mustian, a teenage boy struggling to become a man. Fairly short, with red hair, he looks exactly like his cousin Tom Ryden. Only fifteen years old, Milo is proud and cocky, as he demonstrates by bragging about his sexual encounter with Lois Provo, a girl he met at the Warren County Fair. As the oldest child in a household without a father, he shoulders numerous responsibilities and finds himself involved in two separate hunts. The first is a search for his brother Rato, the family dog, Phillip, and an Indian python, Death. The other is a quest for his own identity and for understanding of the world around him.

Lois Provo

Lois Provo, Milo’s girlfriend. Sixteen years old, with long black hair, she is Milo’s first paramour and also one of his first close friends. She travels along the eastern seaboard of the United States with her aunt/mother Selma Provo as part of the fair. Together, she and her mother take care of forty-six snakes, the main attraction being Death, an eighteen-foot python.

Selma Provo

Selma Provo, Lois’ mother, masquerading as her aunt. A short, plain woman around fifty years of age, she has spent the last sixteen years tending snakes and telling lies. Trying to shield Lois as well as herself from the truth, she concocts a story that her sister Edith Provo died giving birth to Tom Ryden’s illegitimate daughter, Lois. Milo discovers that Edith never existed and that Selma actually is Lois’ mother rather than her aunt.

Rosacoke Mustian

Rosacoke Mustian, Milo’s younger sister. Like Milo, Rosacoke assumes many family responsibilities,...

(The entire section is 690 words.)