Dove Linkhorn, a red-haired, six-foot illiterate from Arroyo, Texas. After a brief affair with Terasina Vidavarri, he rides a freight train to seek his fortune in New Orleans. Convinced that anything can happen to someone who can make words from letters, Dove projects unsophisticated country innocence, but his principle of living is to do violence to anyone who tries to push ahead of him. On Perdido Street in New Orleans, Dove walks on the wild side with prostitutes, pimps, con artists, condom manufacturers, and petty criminals. With a pair of con artists, he joins a coffee-selling scam and a free beauty-treatment scam; later, he assists a manufacturer of condoms and peddles salves while wearing a white suit with a pink-striped shirt, yellow suede shoes, and a hat with a matching yellow feather. In partnership with master pimp Oliver Finnerty, he becomes Big Stingaree, a corrupter of supposedly innocent girls for a peep show. In Finnerty’s house, Dove is scorned by Achilles Schmidt and attracted to Hallie Breedlove, both of whom figure prominently in his life. Dove is drawn to Hallie by a book; the two go away and live together during an idyllic period while he learns to read and questions her about history. His insecurity about his ignorance dissolves, and she secretly departs, carrying his child. Caught in a raid back at Finnerty’s, Dove spends time in jail, where he observes that he has found only suffering and degradation, but that those with the greatest troubles are always the ones most likely to help. After his release, he is beaten and blinded by Schmidt. At the end of the novel, Dove, feeling his way with a cane, returns to Arroyo seeking Terasina.
Fitz Linkhorn, Dove’s father, a wild man of Scottish descent. Widowed with two sons, Fitz is reduced to cleaning cesspools and becomes a self-styled preacher. Estranged from his older son and allowing his younger son to...
(The entire section is 800 words.)