Jake is a wanderer who comes to town with confused and passionate plans for a socialist revolt. He drinks almost constantly for the first few weeks he is in town, spending almost all his time at Biff Brannon's New York Café. Once Jake meets Singer and decides that Singer, like him, "knows," he stays in town and gets a job at a local carnival. Of all the characters, Jake is the most prone to violent outbursts and genuine mental instability—his speech is never constant in tone, changing from intellectual to crass to boisterous to rage at a moment's notice. He is constantly consumed with his desire to see workers rise up in revolt; the only time he ceases to think about how to achieve his misguided socialist reforms is when he drinks himself into a stupor.
Jake is also the least sensitive of all of the characters, and he is no expert at personal interaction. All of the other main characters have other friends, acquaintances, or family outside of their relationship with Singer, but Jake confides in nobody else except the deaf-mute. After Singer dies, Jake is blindingly angry that he has spent so much time telling his dreams and plans to a man who is now dead. At the end of the novel, Jake leaves town to search for another person who will share his views and collaborate with him in his plans for violent revolt and revolution.