The Invention of Wings

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The Invention of Wings Characters

Hetty Handful Grimké

One of the novel’s two protagonists, Handful (called Hetty by her white masters) is a slave of the Grimké household who is given to Sarah as a maid. As Sarah and Handful become friends, Sarah… (read full character analysis)

Sarah Grimké

The novel’s other protagonist, based on the real historical figure (1792-1873). The daughter of a wealthy land-owning family in Charleston, Sarah stands out for both her ambition to be a female jurist and her fight… (read full character analysis)

Angelina (Nina) Grimké

Sarah’s youngest sister and godchild (and also a real historical figure). Nina is more headstrong and outspoken than Sarah but shares Sarah’s passion to speak out against slavery. After causing numerous scandals in Charleston… (read full character analysis)

Charlotte Grimké (Mauma)

Handful’s mother and the main seamstress for the Grimké family. Charlotte is intensely determined to achieve freedom for herself and Handful, rebelling in every small way she can against their lives as slaves and… (read full character analysis)

Denmark Vesey

A free black man living in Charleston, based on a real historical figure. Denmark won his freedom by winning the lottery, and uses his autonomy to inspire other slaves to rebel against the white masters… (read full character analysis)
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Mary Grimké (Mother / Missus)

Sarah and Nina’s mother. She is a harsh mistress to her slaves, and a stickler for propriety and status in the upper echelons of Charleston society. Though horrified by the actions of her daughters… (read full character analysis)

John Grimké (Father)

Sarah and Nina’s father, a prominent judge in Charleston who is ruined by accusations of bias in his sentences. Before his death of a wasting disease, John admits to Sarah that he too believes… (read full character analysis)
Minor Characters
Sky
The daughter of Charlotte and Denmark Vesey, and Handful’s half-sister. Sky is wild and outspoken, more vocally rebellious than most of the house slaves at the Grimké house. Handful worries about Sky and ultimately runs away with Sky to keep her from being punished continually for her spirit.
Mary Grimké (Little Missus / Mary Jr.)
Sarah and Nina’s oldest sister. True to her namesake, Mary follows all of her mother Mary’s rules for Charleston ladies. Mary moves back to the Grimké house after her husband dies and treats the Grimké slaves as poorly as Mary Sr. does.
Thomas Grimké
Sarah’s older brother, who wants to study theology but must study law to please his father. Thomas supports Sarah’s desire for education, but ultimately does not stand up for Sarah’s beliefs or her equality as a woman.
Anna Grimké
Sarah’s younger sister.
Eliza Grimké
Sarah’s younger sister.
Frederick Grimké
Sarah’s older brother.
Goodis
A footman and general slave for the Grimké family. Goodis gets his name from being the “goodest” of his siblings and quickly falls for Handful once he is bought by the Grimkés, eventually becoming Handful’s lover.
Aunt-Sister
The cook for the Grimké family.
Binah
The nursery maid for the Grimké family.
Sabe
The Grimké family stable master.
Tomfry
The Grimké family butler, who is loyal to Missus to a fault but has compassion for the other slaves.
Hector
The Grimké family butler after Tomfry leaves, a harsh man who seems to enjoy punishing the other slaves.
Rosetta
An older slave of the Grimké family, who works as a maid but often plays at physical weakness to get time for herself.
Phoebe
A maid for the Grimké family, Aunt-Sister’s daughter and Lucy’s sister.
Eli
A slave of the Grimké family.
Lucy
A maid for the Grimké family, Aunt-Sister’s daughter and Phoebe’s sister.
Snow
The carriage driver for the Grimké family.
Prince
A slave for the Grimké family.
Mariah
A slave for the Grimké family.
Cindie
A slave for the Grimké family.
Minta
A slave for the Grimké family, Mary (Missus)’s maid. Minta and Sabe are sweet on each other.
Reverend Brown
The pastor at the African Church that the slaves of Charleston form to have a place for themselves.
Burke Williams
The son of a silver merchant in Charleston, Burke asks for Sarah’s hand in marriage only to break her heart by revealing that he has other girlfriends and is only interested in the physical aspects of a relationship.
Lucretia Mott
The only female minister at the Quaker meeting that Sarah attends in Philadelphia. Lucretia offers Sarah support and inspiration in both her abolitionist and feminist efforts.
Israel Morris
A warm, intelligent Quaker man who introduces Sarah to the Quaker faith. After the passing of his wife, Rebecca Morris, Israel asks for Sarah’s hand in marriage, but Sarah turns him down in order to focus on her calling as a Quaker minister.
Catherine
Israel Morris’ unmarried sister who lives with Israel after Rebecca’s death to care for the children. Catherine primly objects to Sarah’s presence in Israel’s house, but warms to Sarah once she sees that Sarah is genuine in her faith.
Rebecca Morris
Israel Morris first wife, the epitome of the good Quaker woman who dedicates her life to good works and caring for her children.
Becky Morris
Israel Morris’ young daughter, named for her mother Rebecca.
Sarah Mapps Douglass
A young black Quaker woman who offers Sarah and Nina a place to stay once they can no longer live with the Morris family or Lucretia Mott.
Grace Douglass
A black Quaker woman at the meeting Sarah attends in Philadelphia.
William Lloyd Garrison
The editor of the abolitionist newspaper The Liberator who published one of Nina’s letters and pushes Sarah and Nina into a more prominent position in the abolition movement.
Elizur Wright
The founder of the American Anti-Slavery Society who invites Sarah and Nina to give lectures against slavery.
Theodore Weld
A prominent member of the American Anti-Slavery Society. He supports Sarah and Nina’s right to speak as females. He eventually marries Nina.
John Greenleaf Whittier
A close friend of Theodore Weld and a leader in the abolition effort.
Mrs. Whittier
John Greenleaf Whittier’s mother, who allows Sarah and Nina to stay with her.
Jane Bettleman
A Quaker woman who takes offense at Sarah’s flashy style of dress and feminist leanings as she works toward becoming a female minister.
Samuel Bettleman
A Quaker man who takes offense at Sarah’s efforts to become a female minister.
Madame Ruffin
Sarah’s teacher, who forces Sarah to learn etiquette and womanly skills instead of studying law.
Reverend William McDowell
A Presbyterian minister who captures Nina’s heart when she lives in Charleston, but disappoints her with his inaction against slavery.
Reverend Hall
The main pastor of the Anglican church in Charleston who refuses to let Sarah teach black children the alphabet.
Reverend Gadsden
Another pastor of the Anglican church in Charleston.
Ned
One of the top lieutenants of Denmark Vesey’s rebellion.
Rolla
One of the top lieutenants of Denmark Vesey’s rebellion.
Gullah Jack
One of the top lieutenants of Denmark Vesey’s rebellion.
Peter
One of the top lieutenants of Denmark Vesey’s rebellion.
Susan
Denmark Vesey’s wife.
Mr. Drayton
One of the upper class planters in Charleston.