Gene functions as an antagonistic figure in the memoir, because he works to thwart Tara's attempts to become her own person and think for herself. Because of his mental illness and his tendencies to be dominant, Gene always needs to be in control of everything . Whenever any of his children show signs of independence, Gene becomes very angry. He can be manipulative in his attempts to control his children, such as when he repeatedly tries to bribe and trick Tara into continuing to work for him. Gene is also motivated by his belief that he has a unique mission from God, and the idea that he is invincible. He takes dangerous risks with himself and his children because he has such intense trust in his faith. Gene's sense of himself as a man with divine mission is fueled even further after he survives his dangerous burns without medical intervention.

Gene's character shows little evolution over the course of the memoir. He is never able to see beyond his stubbornness and view of the world. Tara tries to share the information she learns with him, and challenge him about the assumptions he makes. Gene cannot open his mind even after Tara tells him about the abuse she has suffered. His view of the world is very engrained with his belief that men should have authority, and women should be submissive. Growing older, experiencing terrible injuries, and becoming part of a very successful business do not change Gene's character. His mental illness is likely part of why he cannot evolve or learn to think differently. Although he has many flaws and is a damaging force in Tara's life, Gene also has moments of kindness. He does have the capacity to show love to his children, but he is so trapped in his paranoid beliefs that he ultimately cannot break free of them.