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The sharp-witted, lesbian protagonist. Molly is beautiful, athletic, and highly intelligent, and she has a very strong will. She rarely backs down from a dispute, is honest to the point of painfulness, and is driven to succeed beyond society’s expectations. Molly’s determination often gets her into trouble, but she always exudes self-esteem and remains unapologetic for being who she is.
Read an in-depth analysis of Molly Bolt
Molly’s adoptive mother. Carrie is strong-willed and often stubborn and bitter. Though she loves Molly, she seems resentful of her achievements and tends to criticize her for being arrogant and unladylike. She was rebellious when she was younger, just as Molly is.
Read an in-depth analysis of Carrie Bolt
Molly’s cousin. The son of Ep and Jenna, Leroy is Molly’s main childhood playmate. As an adolescent, Leroy thins out and becomes more of a redneck, spending most of his free time at the motorcycle shop. Though he seems unsure of his sexuality in his teens, he marries and has children by his twenties.
Read an in-depth analysis of Leroy Denman
Molly’s adoptive father. Gentle and good-natured, Carl shows Molly that men can be sensitive as well as strong. Unlike Carrie, Carl encourages Molly to follow her ambitions and use her mental and physical advantages to achieve success.
A beautiful, Black lesbian Molly meets in New York City. Holly comes from a middle-class family, but in New York she lives a ritzy life by being a “kept” woman. Though she seems to love her lifestyle of hobnobbing with the rich and famous, she harbors insecurities about her lack of ambition and questionable ethics.
A middle-aged history professor who becomes one of Molly’s lovers. Polina is attractive, learned, and sophisticated, and she understands and fights against the challenges women face in the working world. Her sexual fantasies of being a man repulse Molly.
Molly’s freshman-year roommate at the University of Florida. Because she is wealthy and popular, Faye has a cavalier attitude toward life. She drinks and carouses, leaving no time to study. She is also generous with her money. After sleeping with Molly, she becomes more conscientious and works hard to stay in school so they can be together.
Carrie’s loud-mouthed, opinionated sister. Florence often behaves self-righteously and officiously toward her family, neighbors, and friends. In emergency situations, she proves capable of taking charge and helping effectively.
One of Molly’s two best friends in high school and captain of the cheerleading team. Unlike Connie and Molly, Carolyn is prudish and innocent. She doesn’t swear and expresses surprise when Connie and Molly confess they’ve had sex with their boyfriends. When she has sex with Molly, she becomes obsessed with her.
One of Molly’s two best friends in high school and editor of the school newspaper. Though Connie is not as pretty as Carolyn and Molly, her irreverent wit and intelligence make her popular. She is boy-crazy and uncomfortable with Molly’s sexuality.
Molly’s best girlfriend in sixth grade. Cat-eyed and quiet, Leota provides Molly with her first homosexual experience. Though reluctant at first, Leota becomes the more sexually adventurous of the two. As a woman, Leota renounces her affinity for Molly and stubbornly believes she has no time for thinking and no opportunity for improving her own life.
Molly’s biological mother. According to Carrie, Ruby was promiscuous. Molly’s voice is exactly like Ruby’s.
Molly’s biological, French father. According to Carrie, Jean-Pierre was a handsome Olympic athlete who jilted Ruby when he found out she was pregnant. Carrie suspects that Molly has inherited his looks, athleticism, and yearning to be an artist.
A Black gay streetwalker who befriends Molly in New York. Young and handsome, Calvin peddles his body each night so he can find a place to sleep. He is both courteous and helpful toward Molly when she arrives in town.
The heiferlike, red-haired dean of girls at the University of Florida. Dean Marne lives uncomfortably in a state of denial of her sexuality, despite having a female lover Molly knows about.
Leroy and Ted’s mother and Ep’s wife. Jenna is an angel among women. Realizing Ep cannot afford a doctor for her, she keeps her cancer a secret until the last week of her life. The entire town grieves her death.
Leroy and Ted’s father and Jenna’s husband. Though poor and unable to give his family much, Ep works hard and loves his children and wife. He is beside himself when his wife Jenna dies and depends on Carl to comfort him.
Polina’s sixteen-year-old daughter and one of Molly’s lovers. Alice is beautiful and intelligent like Polina. She harbors incestuous feelings toward Polina and demonstrates little self-control when she fights with her.
A famous, aging screen actress who “keeps” Holly. Rather than regaling Molly with tales of Hollywood, Kim talks humbly about philosophy and her poor upbringing in Chicago. She is surprisingly down-to-earth and friendly.
An older, famous archaeologist who offers to finance Molly’s life and school plans in return for a sexual relationship. Slender and tan with very short hair, Chryssa is direct, predatory, and arrogant about her profession.
Molly’s elementary school friend. Broccoli is at first reluctant to go along with Molly’s plan to show his uncircumcised penis to the other kids at school, but he soon grows to enjoy it.
An MIT student who takes Molly to New York City. A perfect gentleman, Ralph talks with Molly the entire way to New York. He expresses no romantic interest in her, only polite, human consideration.
Polina’s extramarital lover. Paul teaches English at NYU, specializing in the use of punctuation in poetry. His lectures are incredibly boring, but his sexual fantasies while making love are undeniably strange. Just before he thinks he’s going to have sex with Molly, he imagines himself a woman with large, luscious breasts.
Polina’s husband. Old-looking and paunchy, Mr. Bellantoni lives the life of an effete and vapid intellectual. He pompously lectures about his lifelong study of cows in Western art, never taking his pipe out of his mouth.
Molly’s high school principal. Mr. Beers appears friendly and supportive of Molly, especially after she catches him having an affair with Mrs. Silver, an administrator at the high school.
The head of the film department at NYU. Professor Walgren is almost openly contemptuous of Molly, simply because she is a woman. He is patronizing and unaccommodating.
A dainty and disliked playmate of Molly’s. Cheryl’s prissy, feminine behavior endears her to Carrie and other adults.
Molly’s tattling nemesis in elementary school. Slow and stupid, Earl gets by at school by telling on people, especially Molly.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Rubyfruit Jungle!