Big Black Good Man Characters

Characters

Karen Jenson
Karen is Olaf’s wife. She appears in the story only in Olaf’s thoughts, as conveyed by the narrator. Olaf never talks to her about what happens at the seedy hotel, implying that she is a proper woman.

Olaf Jenson
Olaf is the night porter in the hotel where Jim arrives asking for a room. The story begins on the night before his sixtieth birthday. He is an ordinary man, who is married, owns a home, and likes to garden. As he sits at his desk in the hotel office, he reflects that it would have been nice if he and his wife had had children and if he had saved more money. But, all in all, he is content.

From the moment when Jim first arrives at the hotel, Olaf is overwhelmed by revulsion and terror. It seems to be neither Jim’s race nor his size alone that so profoundly affects Olaf but the combination of the two. His reaction to Jim shows his inability to rightly judge people, as he continues to be convinced that Jim is a cruel, threatening man capable of unprovoked violence even though Jim’s behavior contradicts this.

Jim
Jim is a black American sailor (on a passenger ship) who arrives at a cheap hotel on the Copenhagen waterfront on the night when the story begins. His clothes and a large roll of cash mark him as well off, but the most remarkable thing about him is his size. He is about six and one-half feet tall and huge in every aspect. The story refers to his...

(The entire section is 502 words.)