Study Guide

In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash Characters

Jean Shepherd
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In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash Summary & Study Guide Description

In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

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Ralph Wesley Parker - Narratorappears in collection

Ralph Parker is the main character in this collection of humorous short stories. Known simply as Ralph, he appears in every story. As the narrator, he allows the reader to experience Ralph's life as both an adult, a child of various ages, and a teenage boy. He explains his own thoughts and introduces the town of Hohman. As a Midwestern boy growing up in the Depression era, Ralph enjoys a simple, ordinary life (although his stories and his imagination might imply otherwise.)

Ralph is fairly close to his family, even though the family operates based upon the traditional patriarchal family dynamic of the time that does not encourage him to express his feelings or individuality. Maturing in an age without television, computers, or video games, Ralph is drawn to the simpler pleasures in life. Fishing, playing ball, and participating in the marching band are all important to him. He maintains close friendships with several others boys, including Schwartz, Flick, and Junior Kissel, among others. Ralph clearly has no ill feelings toward his younger brother, but their apparently significant age difference appears to prevent them from becoming best friends.

As a child, Ralph does not understand the outside world of Adulthood. He struggles through the jungle he calls Kidhood while desperately longing to "break in." In "Hairy Gertz and the Forty-Seven Crappies," Ralph feels that maybe he has finally made it. His childhood innocence and immaturity often get the better of him, but that only enhances his charm for the reader.

Flick the Friendly Bartenderappears in Every other chapter

Flick is Ralph's childhood friend. As a character in many of Ralph's stories, Flick bears witness to Ralph's truthful accounting of the events. Unlike Ralph, Flick does not leave Hohman. He stays in the area, marries a girl from the high school that he attends with Ralph, serves in the military, and raises children. He inherits the tavern owned by his late father. A friendly sort, he seems good-natured and fair, although he will not tolerate any misbehavior in the establishment in which he earns his living.

Flick clings to the simple pleasures that Ralph appears to have discarded since he moved to New York. He lives for bowling, The Game, and an honest wage. He still holds onto the BB gun from his youth, telling Ralph, "It comes in handy sometimes." Flick does not ponder the meaning of life or indulge his imagination in the way that Ralph does, but appears to have a good head on his shoulders that has served him well. Flick is the sort of friend that every child should have. Although he protests to Ralph that he is, indeed, "With It," both the reader and Ralph can clearly observe that he is not. Flick appreciates hard work and defends the mill workers that come into his bar at the end of a hard day.

The matter-of-fact manner in which Flick lives his life is apparent from his choice of signs at the tavern. One reads simply "Booze," another "Beer." The title of the book is also derived from one of Flick's humorous signs, the one that says, "In God We Trust - All Others Pay Cash."

Ralph's Motherappears in collection

Ralph's mother is never identified by name. Ralph seems to be especially fond of her, and she in fact comes to his aid in many of his stories. When Ralph's Tasmanian Devil escapes in "Grover Dill and the Tasmanian Devil," she conceals the details of the fight from Ralph's father in order to protect her son. She comforts Ralph when he is ill or upset, and withholds punishment when his innocence in a world of adults leads him astray, as in "Uncle Ben and the Side-Splitting Knee-Slapper, or Some Words Are Loaded."

In "Duel in the Snow or "Red Ryder Nails the Cleveland Street Kid," Ralph's mother appears concerned that he will, of course, shoot his eye out, but ultimately his beloved Red Ryder BB gun still materializes underneath the Christmas tree. When Ralph is injured in the story, she comforts and nurses his wound in tried-and-true motherly fashion. Ralph's mother is a true pacifist. In "My Old Man and the Lascivious Special Award that Heralded the Birth of Pop Art," Ralph's mother "accidentally" destroys her husband's prized lamp. Although she probably does not regret her actions, she is more than willing to make up when her husband breaks the silence that followed the lamp's tragic demise.

The final story, in which the Orpheum Gravy Boat Riot is so vividly described, appears to truly represent an homage to Ralph's mother. One can assume that the promise of new formal dinnerware does not truly hold any real value for Ralph outside of his mother's anticipated happiness with the prospect. She handles each piece lovingly and appears enraptured by the whole idea of an entire dinnerware collection. Ralph's mother is a true lady of her time. Her life revolves around her family's needs, not her own.

The Old Manappears in collection

Ralph's father is identified in the book as either "my father," "my old man," or most often, "The Old Man." A real man's man, The Old Man works hard to provide for his family, and is the undisputed head of the household. Ralph subtly displays his fondness and admiration for his father in his stories. It is The Old Man who welcomes young Ralph into The Club after their victorious fishing trip in "Hairy Gertz and the Forty-Seven Crappies." He is also the one who points out Ralph's revered Red Ryder BB Gun under the Christmas tree.

The Old Man is a strict disciplinarian, but he does not punish Ralph unless it is truly necessary. When Ralph innocently repeats Uncle Ben's adult joke in "Uncle Ben and the Side-Splitting Knee-Slapper, or Some Words Are Loaded," his father does not punish him. In contrast to young Casmir's harsh punishment for simply retelling the joke, The Old Man simply laughs with his wife over the incident. When Ralph becomes ill in "Grover Dill and the Tasmanian Devil," The Old Man grows concerned for his son and recommends summoning the family physician. He takes young Ralph with him on an all-male fishing trip, and includes him in the group during their victorious celebration. When Ralph scrapes the fender on the family's prized Graham-Paige, The Old Man does not accuse Ralph at all. He apparently trusts that his son would not be driving the family car without permission.

Although Ralph's father appears content with his simple lot in life, some stories do portray him as a man who yearns to prove himself. He struggles mightily to win a major award in "My Old Man and the Lascivious Special Award that Heralded the Birth of Pop Art." He prides himself in his annual fireworks performance for the neighbors, so much so that he continues performing even after his shirt catches fire in "Ludlow Kissel and the Dago Bomb That Struck Back." Ralph brags about his father's baseball prowess in "Nevermore, Quoth the Assessor, Nevermore..." and his legacy as one of the most feared Furnace Fighters in Northern Indiana in "Duel in the Snow, or Red Ryder Nails the Cleveland Street Kid."

The Woman at the Automatappears in Duel in the Snow, or Red Ryder Nails the Cleveland Street Ki

The elderly woman at the Automat is unnamed. She appears in "Duel in the Snow, or Red Ryder Nails the Cleveland Street Kid." She eats lunch at Ralph's table at the H & H, and gives him a pamphlet detailing her opposition to war-type children's clothing and toys. She is also a vegetarian, as she believes that meat-eaters are doing the work of the Devil. She wears a button that reads, "Disarm the Toy Industry."

Red Ryderappears in Duel in the Snow, or Red Ryder Nails the Cleveland Street Ki

Red Ryder is a fictional heroic figure who vanquishes assorted bad guys and villains, especially rustlers. The BB gun that Ralph wants for Christmas is named after Red Ryder. The character is described in "Duel in the Snow, or Red Ryder Nails the Cleveland Street Kid."

Miss Iona Pearl Bodkinappears in Duel in the Snow, or Red Ryder Nails the Cleveland Street Ki

Miss Bodkin is Ralph's elementary school teacher at the Warren G. Harding School in "Duel in the Snow, or Red Ryder Nails the Cleveland Street Kid." According to Ralph, Miss Bodkin "was a hardier teacher than the present breed." Kids in her class do not consider missing class, even in deplorable weather conditions.

When Miss Bodkin asks Ralph to write a theme about what he wants for Christmas, he writes of the coveted Red Ryder BB gun. When Ralph receives the graded theme from his teacher, she writes on the page, "You'll shoot your eye out. Merry Christmas."

Santa Clausappears in Duel in the Snow, or Red Ryder Nails the Cleveland Street Ki

Ralph meets Santa Claus at Goldblatt's department store in "Duel in the Snow, or Red Ryder Nails the Cleveland Street Kid." Ralph explains that in Northern Indiana, Santa Claus is a very big man, and the Santa at Goldblatt's is officially recognized among the kids as THE Santa Claus. When Ralph accidentally confesses to Santa that he wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, the old saint of course declines, saying, "You'll shoot your eye out, kid."

Little Orphan Annieappears in The Counterfeit Secret Circle Member Gets the Message, or Th

The apparent founder of the Little Orphan Annie Secret Circle, Little Orphan Annie appears via her radio show in "The Counterfeit Secret Circle Member Gets the Message, or The Asp Strikes Again." Ralph joins Annie's club only to be felled by Annie's friend, The Asp, another character in her show. Little Orphan Annie lives in Tompkins Corners with her faithful dog, Sandy. She spends most of her time chasing pirates or trapping smugglers.

The Aspappears in The Counterfeit Secret Circle Member Gets the Message, or Th

The Asp is another character in Little Orphan Annie's radio show. Described simply as a friend of Annie's who would just show up if she were really in a tight spot, The Asp apparently regularly cuts everybody's heads off in the show. According to Ralph, The Asp wears a towel around his head. The Asp appears in "The Counterfeit Secret Circle Member Gets the Message, or The Asp Strikes Again."

Sandyappears in The Counterfeit Secret Circle Member Gets the Message, or Th

Sandy is Little Orphan Annie's dog in "The Counterfeit Secret Circle Member Gets the Message, or The Asp Strikes Again." Ralph describes Sandy as Little Orphan Annie's Airedale sidekick. Ralph's favorite line in the Little Orphan Annie theme song is "Arf goes Sandy." He points out that Sandy is one of the main reasons that he listens to the Little Orphan Annie radio program.

Pierre Andréappears in The Counterfeit Secret Circle Member Gets the Message, or Th

Pierre André is the definitive radio announcer Ralph mentions in "The Counterfeit Secret Circle Member Gets the Message, or The Asp Strikes Again." Pierre is the one who announces the code for each radio show's secret message at the end of the program.

Junie Jo Prewittappears in The Endless Streetcar Ride into the Night, and the Tinfoil N

Junie Jo Prewitt is Ralph's blind date in "The Endless Streetcar Ride into the Night, and the Tinfoil Noose." According to Ralph, Junie Jo is the greatest-looking girl he has ever seen. She makes even Cleopatra look like a Girl Scout. Junie Jo does not speak during Ralph's repeated attempts to engage her in conversation, however, and eventually Ralph realizes that he is Junie Jo's blind date, not the other way around. His friend Schwartz is trying to help him out by finding a girl for him to date. Ralph refers to his moment of realization as one of those moments in a person's life when the searchlight of Truth shines full upon him, and he is forever changed.

The Official Peopleappears in The Endless Streetcar Ride into the Night, and the Tinfoil N

In "The Endless Streetcar Ride into the Night, and the Tinfoil Noose," Ralph ponders the fact that everyone is born as a "mewling, puking babe," yet some people go on to become Official People, while the rest do not. Official People are Prime Ministers, Presidents, Cabinet members, Stars, and Dynamic molders of the Universe. Ralph explains that even Joseph Stalin and Adolf Hitler possess some mysterious quality that makes them powerful, famous, and successful.

Ralph explains that there are about four times in people's lives when the cosmic searchlight of Truth unexpectedly shines upon them. One's reaction to those moments is what seals one's Fate as either an Official Person or simply another face in the crowd. One group simply ignores the light and moves on, while others see the limits of their own abilities illuminated by the light and are forever changed.

The Roller Rink Nutappears in Hairy Gertz and the Forty-Seven Crappies

Ralph describes the Roller Rink Nut in detail in "Hairy Gertz and the Forty-Seven Crappies." Depicted as an earlier incarnation of the Drive-In Movie Nut, the Roller Rink Nut is especially drawn to "chicks with purple eyelids." He can be identified by his tendency to don a distinctive black satin jacket with the words SOUTH SIDE A. C. printed in white letters and a white-winged roller-skated foot on the back.

The Roller Rink Nut's car is truly a sight to behold. Usually a '53 Mercury, it must include at least one of the following items as part of a required display in the car's back window: a huge pair of foam rubber dice, a skull and crossbones, hula-hula dolls, bobble-headed professional football figures. The Nut may also place ball fringe around the car windows, and phony Venetian blinds in the back. Some Nuts even choose to line their cars with plastic imitation mink fur.

Hairy Gertzappears in Hairy Gertz and the Forty-Seven Crappies

Hairy Gertz is the title character and a key member of the fishing party in "Hairy Gertz and the Forty-Seven Crappies." Hairy's value is apparently determined by his possession of a Coleman lamp and ability to tell jokes.

Marciaappears in My Old Man and the Lascivious Special Award that Heralded th

Ralph meets Marcia at the Museum in "My Old Man and the Lascivious Special Award that Heralded the Birth of Pop Art." Marcia is the target of Ralph's favorite late afternoon time-killer, Girl Tracking. Marcia appears to be one of the complaisant, rebellious, burlap-skirted, sandal-wearing CCNY undergraduates that Ralph finds easiest to snare. She is later abducted rather unceremoniously by Stevie.

Stevieappears in My Old Man and the Lascivious Special Award that Heralded th

Stevie is the friend of Marcia's who comes to collect her in "My Old Man and the Lascivious Special Award that Heralded the Birth of Pop Art."

Grover Dillappears in Grover Dill and the Tasmanian Devil

Grover Dill is the town bully. When Grover Dill trips Ralph in "Grover Dill and the Tasmanian Devil," Ralph unleashes the Tasmanian Devil.

Ludlow Kisselappears in Ludlow Kissel and the Dago Bomb that Struck Back and Nevermo

Ludlow Kissel is the town drunk in Hohman. He is a key character in "Ludlow Kissel and the Dago Bomb that Struck Back." Kissel's family falls victim to the Indiana Personal Property Tax Assessor in "Nevermore,' Quoth the Assessor, 'Nevermore..."

Uncle Benappears in Uncle Ben and the Side-Splitting Knee-Slapper, or Some Words

Uncle Ben is Ralph's family Joke Teller in "Uncle Ben and the Side-Splitting Knee-Slapper, or Some Words Are Loaded." When Ralph recounts Uncle Ben's latest dirty joke to his friend Casmir, trouble ensues.

Casmirappears in Uncle Ben and the Side-Splitting Knee-Slapper, or Some Words

Casmir has the misfortune of repeating Uncle Ben's joke in "Uncle Ben and the Side-Splitting Knee-Slapper, or Some Words Are Loaded." Casmir is a young friend of Ralph's and part of a wholesome, "wonderful," Polish Catholic family.

Old Man Pulaskiappears in Old Man Pulaski and the Infamous Jawbreaker Blackmail Caper

Old Man Pulaski is the grouchy proprietor of Pulaski's, the place where Ralph and his friends buy Penny Candy. When Old Man Pulaski insists that Ralph purchase red Jawbreakers along with black ones, he teaches young Ralph his first lesson about Man's Inhumanity to Man.

Miss Shieldsappears in Old Man Pulaski and the Infamous Jawbreaker Blackmail Caper

Miss Shields is Ralph's second-grade teacher. She appears in "Old Man Pulaski and the Infamous Jawbreaker Blackmail Caper" when she demands that the boys in the class surrender their wax false teeth.

Friendly Fredappears in Enter Friendly Fred

In "Enter Friendly Fred," Fred is introduced as the proprietor of the used car lot across the street from Flick's Tavern. His presence reminds Ralph of the day that he tried to back the Graham-Paige out of the garage.

The Used-Car Nutappears in The Perfect Crime

Described in "The Perfect Crime," the Used-Car Nut is much more dedicated than the ordinary car worshiper, according to Ralph. The Old Man is a Used-Car Nut. He spends his Saturday afternoons visiting local used car lots in search of the next best deal.

Wilbur Duckworthappears in Wilbur Duckworth and His Magic Baton

Wilbur Duckworth is the drum major of the high school band in which both Ralph and Flick play. Duckworth is egotistical, and every member of the all-male band both hates and fears him. Duckworth is the title character in "Wilbur Duckworth and His Magic Baton." When he tosses his batons high into the air, one of the batons makes contact with a high-tension wire, causing fire and smoke to streak through the air and frighten the parade watchers.

Miss Bryfogelappears in Miss Bryfogel and the Frightening Case of the Speckle-Throat

Miss Bryfogel is Ralph's sixth-grade English teacher in "Miss Bryfogel and the Frightening Case of the Speckle-Throated Cuckold." Ralph is madly, deeply in love with Miss Bryfogel, and decides to write a special Book Report to demonstrate his true feelings for her. Even now, Ralph remembers Miss Bryfogel's "soft heart-shaped face and dark, liquid eyes." Flick remembers as well, in "I Relate the Strange Tale of the Human Hypodermic Needle." He says, "I don't see her around any more. She really was something..."

Miss Easterappears in Miss Bryfogel and the Frightening Case of the Speckle-Throat

Miss Easter is Ralph's school librarian in "Miss Bryfogel and the Frightening Case of the Speckle-throated Cuckold." Ralph describes Miss Easter as a kindly, thin, ancient lady who had been born wearing a pair of gold-rimmed bifocals and with a head of blue-gray hair. Miss Easter is a true dedicated librarian and an alert protector of the morals of the young.

The Assessorappears in Nevermore,

The Assessor is the villain in "Nevermore," Quoth the Assessor, "Nevermore..." When the Assessor visits Ralph's home, Ralph's parents are terrified. After the Assessor's visit, Ralph and his friends see the sign announcing the auction of all of the Kissel family's belongings.

The Auction Followersappears in Nevermore,

In "Nevermore," Quoth the Assessor, "Nevermore...," the Auction Followers are described as Human Vultures who live off the disaster and defeat of others, picking the bones clean. The Followers appear at the auction of the Kissel family's personal possessions.

Leopold Dopplerappears in Leopold Doppler and the Great Orpheum Gravy Boat Riot

Leopold Doppler is the proprietor of the Orpheum Movie Theater and resident showman in "Leopold Doppler and the Great Orpheum Gravy Boat Riot." Doppler starts the Great Dish Fever when he promises brand new pieces of dinnerware to all adult women attending the theater. When Doppler's hands out too many gravy boats, the women revolt with devastating consequences. The Orpheum closes its doors forever, and Doppler is never heard from again.

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