The Sot-Weed Factor Characters

John Barth

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Ebenezer (Eben) Cooke

Ebenezer (Eben) Cooke (EH-beh-nee-zur), the main character, who moves from the position of naïve fool to wounded and wise sophisticate during this novel, which describes his adventures as he learns the difference between his romantic view of the world and cruel reality. Eben and his twin sister Anna were born in 1666 in Maryland, on Malden, a tobacco plantation owned by their father, Andrew. Eben’s mother died giving birth to the twins. Andrew returned to England for the children’s education, hiring Henry Burlingame III as their tutor. Eben attends Cambridge University. While there, he meets a prostitute, Joan Toast. He does not have sex with her; he vows eternal love to her and promises to maintain his virginity as a tribute to her. He has been adrift in his life; she inspires him to be a poet. His father asks him to return to Maryland to run the plantation. At about the same time, he has an interview with Lord Baltimore, a former governor of Maryland, who appoints Eben poet laureate of the colony and asks Eben to help him regain his former post as governor. The man posing as Lord Baltimore is really Henry Burlingame III in disguise. This episode is the first of many tricks played on Eben by a person he thought he could trust like a member of his family, and before long his head is spinning, and he no longer knows what to believe. Fearing trouble from those plotting against Lord Baltimore, Eben exchanges identities with his servant, Bertrand Burton. They travel to Maryland (after being taken by pirates and thrown overboard), where he mistakenly gives away his estate and is forced to work on it as a common servant. After further misadventures, the worst of which is his capture by murderous Indians, Eben regains the plantation, marries...

(The entire section is 739 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Ebenezer Cooke, the protagonist of The Sot-Weed Factor, is the son of a Maryland sot-weed factor or tobacco planter, although he is...

(The entire section is 491 words.)