Last Updated on September 12, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1140
Big Mama is Denver Moore’s grandmother and best friend, and she is quiet and kind. She weaves dresses out of flour sacks and relies on her favorite grandson, Moore, to support her with various chores and other helpful activities, which he does willingly. Her death in a fire has a lasting impact on the young Moore.
Ron Hall was raised in relative comfort, receiving an education and the basic necessities of life. At college he was very interested in finding a life partner, and though he failed miserably in his first few attempts, he eventually found Deborah, whom he married. Hall initially worked as a soup salesman but later became an art dealer, opening a gallery and selling paintings for extortionate prices. He became a wealthy man, though his increased affluence led to estrangement from his wife and an unsympathetic view of those less fortunate than him. After having an affair with a painter in California, he had a change of heart and, on receiving his wife’s forgiveness, became a better husband, agreeing to support her efforts working at a mission for people experiencing homelessness. While his Christian faith had previously been a handy explanation for his success and nothing more, it now became a guide in his philanthropic efforts and encouraged him to befriend Denver. With great patience and kindness, Ron pursues this friendship, and though suspicious at first, Denver is soon won over and repays Ron with invaluable emotional support upon Deborah’s death. Ron has a crisis of faith during his wife’s illness, questioning why God would inflict so much suffering on such a good person. Moore provides Ron with religious reasons for his wife’s suffering and helps him maintain his faith.
Moore’s childhood was blighted by horrors such as the death of his grandmother in a fire, an event the young boy witnessed from start to finish. Nonetheless, he remained a good-natured boy, as evidenced by his offering to help a white woman with her car, an offer for which he was violently punished. Eventually he tired of the slavery-like conditions of his life as a sharecropper and took a train to California, where his lack of education soon rendered him homeless. This lifestyle turned him savage and dangerous, and after a stint in one of the US’s most notorious prisons, he returned to the streets as a notorious figure among the homeless. His attendance of the mission where the Halls serve gradually erodes the armor he has forged for himself, and in the end, his good nature returns to him. He prays constantly for Deborah while she is ill and delivers several words from God to her family that indicate how long and for what reasons Deborah will remain alive. At Deborah’s memorial service, he delivers a powerful speech, during which Hall realizes that Moore himself is the miracle for which he prayed for so long and which his wife’s hard work had helped make a reality.
A spirited and mischievous child, Deborah grew into a confident woman who first attracted her future husband because of her educated Southern accent. In addition to being well-educated, Deborah has a good heart and strong virtues, and though her scientific mind initially leads her to question the doctrines of the faith she was born into, she soon comes to believe strongly in her Christian mission and begins a gratifying life of philanthropy. She demonstrates her kind nature by forgiving the artist with whom her husband had an affair and through her persistent and well-meaning pursuit of Moore, whom she dreamed was a wise man destined to have a positive impact on her and her husband. When she is diagnosed with and ultimately dies of cancer, her long struggle and eventual death serve as the instigation for Moore’s letting down his guard and embracing...
(The entire section contains 1140 words.)
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