The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things Characters

JT LeRoy
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The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things Summary & Study Guide Description

The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion on The Heart Is Deceitful Above All Things by JT LeRoy.

Jeremiah appears in All Stories

Jeremiah is the narrator of the stories and the primary protagonist and victim. He is only four years old when the stories begin, a child raised by foster parents who is claimed by his biological mother, Sarah, once she turns eighteen. His life turns almost immediately into one horror after another as first Sarah tortures him emotionally and then her boyfriend physically with a leather belt. He is injured repeatedly through sexual abuse, but his association with abuse and being loved leads him to crave the pain. He is transformed from a fairly normal boy into a masochist seeking sadists in a sexual world that usually has safe words to control the degree of pain. By the end of the stories, Jeremiah is so warped that he has no safe word and dreams of the day that a sadistic lover cuts off his penis. Along with this, he has become a master at passive aggressive behavior. His mother constantly accuses him of spoiling all her plans, but he knows she will never become anything but his primary childhood abuser, a user of foolish men, and a petty criminal.

Sarahappears in All Stories

Sarah is Jeremiah's mother. She gave birth to him at fourteen, and being under age, Social Services took the baby away from her. Her father never forgave her for having sinned in such a grievous, in his eyes, manner. When she reaches the age of eighteen, she claims Jeremiah and immediately shows signs of having developed serious mental health problems. Her attitude is that she owns Jeremiah and can do anything she wants to him. She descends steadily into madness, with illegal drugs helping her along the way. Her selections in men tend to be those who enjoy performing rough sex with her and punishing Jeremiah severely with leather belts. She lives off the men for a period of time and then leaves them, usually with their vehicles and money. Her general method involves starting a big fight before leaving. By the last few stories, she has gone out of her mind almost to the point of being catatonic, but she pulls back to her old tricks and nearly kills Jeremiah.

Jeremiah's Foster Familyappears in Story 1: Disapperances

For the first four years of his life, Jeremiah enjoyed a truly nurturing environment. His foster parents disciplined him without becoming overly violent, gave him toys, and won his heart by the time Sarah shows up to jerk him away from them. Jeremiah's desire to go back to his foster home becomes the first major conflict between him and his biological mother.

Milkshakeappears in Story 5: Lizards

Milkshake is a thirteen-year old lot lizard, a prostitute who solicits from truckers at truck stops. She helps Jeremiah when he becomes locked out of the truck cab in which he had been sleeping, and continues to care for him for two days. Milkshake is one of the few people who treat Jeremiah well, outside of foster parents and health professionals.

Buddyappears in Story 7: Coal

Buddy also treats Jeremiah well and enjoys watching cartoons with him. Buddy always brings a box of Fiddle Faddle with him and plays with the boy as if an older brother. When Jeremiah is almost discovered in the basement, Buddy helps him clean up and covers for him afterward.

Sarah's Fatherappears in Story 4: Foolishness Is Bound in the Heart of a Child

Sarah's father is a successful fundamentalist preacher with a weekly radio show. He employs severe corporal punishment to keep his children in line. His use of a leather belt to whip the children probably led to Sarah's need for rough sex and her attitude that Jeremiah needed whipping after whipping. Jeremiah meets his grandfather and is disappointed when he does not get his whipping.

Sarah's Motherappears in Story 3: Toyboxed

Sarah's mother supports her father in all ways. She monitors punishments outside the whippings, such as administering hot baths in bleach water and bringing children to and from a box punishment in the basement.

Jeremiah's Unclesappears in Story 4: Foolishness Is Bound in the Heart of a Child

Jeremiah's uncles are not much older than he is. One named Aaron tries to set him up for a whipping, but instead Aaron's father detects the deception and punishes Aaron instead.

Sarah's Menappears in All Stories

The men that Sarah tries to ensnare are usually big, physically strong, and stupid. She makes a few exceptions for those who are merely stupid but who have money and a need to give some to her. She also takes up with truckers for a period.

Park Rangerappears in Story 9: Meteors

The park ranger does not fall for Sarah's tricks. He becomes very suspicious of her and calls for help, which causes Sarah to run away.

Health Care Workersappears in Stories 2, 6, 9

Jeremiah visits health care workers often, due to the injuries he incurs from anal sex with adult men or the abuse his mother gives him.

Jeremiah's Pimpappears in Story 10: Natoma Street

Jeremiah's pimp is likely a fantasy tied into his masochism and desire to lose his penis. He runs a sadist-masochist sex shop in a bad part of San Francisco.

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