Since Banana Bottom is the story of Bita Plant’s self-discovery, it is not surprising that she is the only character who can be seen to develop in the course of the novel. Certainly, when Bita comes home to Jamaica, she is already more complex than the Craigs believe her to be. She loves and respects her adoptive parents, and initially she seems willing to fulfill their ambitions for her, especially since her parents are in agreement about her future. Bita, however, is still the same girl who for so long had run wild at Banana Bottom, and she is also the girl who threw herself into the arms of Crazy Bow because she was so overwhelmed by his music. She is also still a Jamaican. If she is exposed to her heritage, she will respond to it, and ironically, by encouraging intellectual curiosity, her European education has merely made her exposure a certainty.
McKay does not, however, present his heroine as a person at the mercy of her emotions. Every time Bita sees something new, she first observes, then decides whether or not to participate. Her detachment is impressive. The moment she comes back to consciousness after fainting in religious ecstasy at a revival meeting, Bita begins to analyze her own reactions. Her development, then, is not merely accidental. Throughout the novel, Bita is busy making the most of every experience, watching herself and others in order to discover her true nature and to make herself into the person she wants to be.
The other characters, though not as dynamic as Bita, are still fairly complex. Moreover, although McKay’s lengthy descriptions and explanations prevent the others from being stereotypes or caricatures, each is primarily important as an influence...
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