Many critics have likened Will Tweedy to the boy hero Huckleberry Finn from Mark Twain’s novel The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Like Huck, whose travels in the South help him learn about life, Will’s experiences help him understand such complex issues as death, prejudice, and love. Will narrates the novel, and although he is twenty-two when he narrates the events of the story years later, he recaptures the adolescent humor and innocent perspective that allow him to view his grandfather’s marriage and the ways of the South with unbiased eyes. This youthful voice keeps the narrative lively, while his adolescent humor lightens the novel’s serious examinations of death and morality.

In many ways, Will Tweedy and Rucker Blakeslee are the same man at opposite ends of life’s spectrum. Critics frequently describe Will as the mirror image of Rucker in outward appearance and personality. Will and Rucker share a penchant for practical jokes, storytelling, and fighting. Their characters also progress along the same arc—though in different directions—over the course of the story. The novel tells the story of Will’s maturation and Rucker’s renaissance. Will must learn from his grandfather how to speak his mind and discard the social constraints of Cold Sassy. As Will learns to become defiant and brave, Rucker, whose defiance hardened him, learns to become happy and youthful. Both Will and Rucker move toward the middle point on the spectrum.