The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Mark Harris’s characterization of Bruce Pearson is brilliantly successful. Bruce is not a charming, intelligent, valuable player whose fellow players love him. Bruce is a third-string catcher who laughs at his teammates’ jokes in order to belong. When he sends postcards to his family, he manages to write only three words on the card: Pearson, Mill, Georgia; the rest is left blank. Bruce is a natural athlete, but not very bright. He sits at the window of the room that he shares with Henry, spitting and watching to see if the spit curves in or out. The team players amuse themselves by taunting and ridiculing Bruce. Henry tries to protect Bruce from their ragging without revealing his roommate’s approaching death. After Henry tries to stop the ridicule of Bruce, Perry, who was the first black man on the Mammoths, alludes to Bruce’s Southern background and sneers, “Pearson would not give me the time of day if I was dying.” Henry replies: “He does not know it himself half the time.” Harris juxtaposes the cocky, talented, and successful Henry Wiggen, who writes books and sells insurance, with the simpleminded Bruce Pearson. Henry is nicknamed “Author” by his teammates, and Bruce thinks that they are saying “Arthur,” which becomes his name for Henry. Bruce gets drunk once a year every spring before training begins because he is a third-string catcher and has little to do other than assist pitchers in warming up. After Henry becomes Bruce’s roommate, the two men become friends, although they have little in common other than their friendship. Henry comments, “We hit it off pretty good once I got used...

(The entire section is 661 words.)

Bang the Drum Slowly Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Henry “Author” Wiggen

Henry “Author” Wiggen, the narrator, the star left-handed pitcher of the New York Mammoths and author of a novel, The Southpaw. He chronicles the final months in the life of his friend, the Mammoths’ third-string catcher, Bruce Pearson. Henry is Bruce’s constant companion; he holds out for a contract that stipulates that Bruce can be traded or released only if Henry receives the same treatment. He protects Bruce from Katie, and he tries to keep their teammates from making Bruce the butt of their jokes and tricks, keeping Bruce’s condition a secret from everyone except Holly and two teammates. While doing all these things, he pitches the Mammoths to the pennant and a World Series championship.

Bruce Pearson

Bruce Pearson, a journeyman catcher who is told by doctors at the Mayo Clinic that he has Hodgkin’s disease and only a few months to live. Bruce is stupid and slow, but under the threat of death, he begins to appreciate life more, taking each day as it comes. He even plays better, helping the Mammoths in their difficult drive for a pennant and becoming more of a student of the game. the divided team comes back together for the pennant race when Bruce’s condition becomes generally known; the knowledge breaks down the animosities that grew during the season. Bruce catches the pennant-clinching game and collapses on the field at the end. He returns from the hospital for the start of the World...

(The entire section is 609 words.)