Francis Marion Tarwater . The protagonist of the story. His destiny is to become a prophet, but he will do anything he can to prevent it from happening. He does not fit the role of a hero, strictly speaking, but is the central figure in the novel.
Rayber . The main antagonist of the story. He is staunchly anti-religious and believes in a secular lifestyle. He is the uncle of Tarwater and the father of Bishop. He tries to protect Tarwater and Bishop from baptism and religion but ultimately fails.
Bishop . An intellectually disabled child. He is the son of Rayber, and the cousin of Tarwater. Tarwater believes that it is his destiny to baptize Bishop, whereas Rayber struggles to prevent this from happening.
Mason Tarwater . The great-uncle of Tarwater and Bishop and the uncle of Rayber. A fanatically religious prophet, he raised Tarwater to follow in his footsteps. His death at the beginning of the novel spurs Tarwater's quest of denial and redemption.
The "friend" . A voice in Tarwater's head, representing rational, secular thinking. In her letters, O'Connor confirms that this friend is Satan himself.
The rapist . He is a motorist who, it is strongly implied in the novel, rapes Tarwater at the end of the novel, an act that ultimately brings Tarwater closer to his destiny. O'Connor also confirms in her letters that the devil becomes physically "actualized in the man who gives Tarwater the lift toward the end."
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