Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Francis Marion Tarwater

Francis Marion Tarwater, a backwoods teenager who is perversely proud to have been born at the site of a car wreck in which his unmarried mother died. His father was a divinity student who later committed suicide. Kidnapped by his great uncle Mason Tarwater and taught to be a prophet, he struggles to reject his indoctrination, creating internal voices to express his own doubts and even equating strangers he meets—especially his rapist—with these voices. As much as Tarwater rejects Old Tarwater, he equally rejects the citified and superficially rational ways of his uncle George Rayber, finally simultaneously rejecting and accepting his prophetic calling when he baptizes and drowns his cousin Bishop Rayber. He consistently claims that his ability to act makes him superior to the thoughtful, talkative Rayber, but Tarwater’s unconscious drives and the words he speaks to perform a baptism are crucial to his story.

George F. Rayber

George F. Rayber, a high school teacher, about forty years old, who specializes in testing. Like Tarwater, he has a strong interest in the role of prophet and the teachings of Old Tarwater. At the age of seven, he cooperated with his abduction by Old Tarwater. Rayber fights the attraction of prophecy by pouring his energies into rational methods for analyzing and changing others’ lives. He is not interested in his son Bishop except as a means to draw the line on love, but he does like the idea of remaking Tarwater. He ends up as much of a bully as Old Tarwater. After he allows Tarwater to drown Bishop, he may find himself unable to recover without becoming even more like the two Tarwaters.

Mason Tarwater

Mason Tarwater, called Old...

(The entire section is 722 words.)