The Characters

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Although there are numerous characters in A Brighter Sun, the novel is essentially focused on Tiger. Even Urmilla is not foregrounded. She is (like Joe, Rita, Sookdeo, and Boysie) a foil to Tiger, though she is also the means of depicting the role of Hindu women in Indian social life. Joe is a nonphilosophical, pragmatic person, friendly yet distant; Rita is self-assured, congenial, and unpretentious—a fine example of a true neighbor. Tall Boy and Otto (Chinese shopkeepers) are introduced, it seems, merely to represent one of the minuscule racial and ethnic groups in the Caribbean. Tall Boy is the astute entrepreneur, the family man; Otto is the older, opium-addicted stereotype. They offer a Chinese analogue to the Indian communities in Chaguanas and Barataria.

Tiger is not given a family name (a not uncommon practice in Indian villages), and thus he can be accepted as a representative individual, rather like one called “Yank” or “Aussie.” He represents that large section of the population of Trinidad, Fiji, and Guyana who are descendants of the indentured plantation workers who were imported at the end of slavery to work on the large estates and who were long denied education, opportunity, and political representation. Accordingly, we can understand Tiger’s intense interest in language and education, in owning land and a house, and in entering politics. He has set his sights high and looks to the future with “a brighter sun” than that of the past. Symbolically, Tiger’s personal war against the old order (and against being regarded as a child) coincides with World War II, which cemented the superpower status of the Soviet Union and United States while setting into motion a number of revolutions in colonized lands in Central and Latin America, Africa, and Asia.

In the botanical gardens, Tiger contemplates the...

(The entire section is 760 words.)

A Brighter Sun Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Tiger, a Trinidadian peasant of East Indian descent. Curious, ambitious, diligent, and determined to become a man, he moves, after an arranged marriage at the age of sixteen, from a traditional community on a sugar estate to a multiracial village near Port of Spain. Contemplating life’s mysteries and dreaming of what education might have afforded him, he sometimes resents the burden of his young family but resolves to understand and control more of his life. Turning from most of the old ways and prejudices toward the ideal of a more integrated society, he learns to read and consciously changes and improves his use of language to prepare for the inevitable changes and opportunities he envisions. He develops a love for his pastoral surroundings but, seeking advancement and contact with a bigger world, obtains employment with the American military, constructing a highway. He is fearful of becoming like Sookdeo, but, tense and culturally confused, he drunkenly beats his pregnant wife, causing her to lose their child. Penance paid, in his early twenties he is mature and responsible, a nascent community leader with an uncertain but optimistic view of his own and his nation’s future.


Urmilla, Tiger’s wife. Long-haired and frail, with sad black eyes, she is married at the age of sixteen and soon pregnant with a female child. Although she is friendly with her Creole neighbor Rita and would like to laugh and talk with Tiger and share his worries, she is a traditional Hindu wife, passive, obedient, hardworking, and eager to please.

Joe Martin

Joe Martin, a laborer and Tiger’s Creole neighbor. Born to a prostitute in a Port of Spain slum and reared by his great-aunt, Ma Lambie, he suffered physical abuse, hatred, and hunger until, at...

(The entire section is 745 words.)

A Brighter Sun The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

When his American guest, who calls all Indians “John,” asks Tiger why he was given his name, Tiger replies, “I don’t know, I must be resemble a tiger! All my other brothers and sisters have good Indian nominations, is only me they give a funny name.” Tiger’s progress in the search for manhood and a personal identity is reflected in the way he deals with language. Tiger was reared with an illiterate form of Hindi-influenced English, but when he moves to Barataria he becomes more exposed to the creole-English dialect which serves most of the locals; Tiger tries to think big thoughts, however, and soon realizes that to change his life he must change his language. He becomes something of a community leader after he learns how to read, and although his attempt to inject high-sounding dictionary English into his conversation is played mainly for laughs, it also demonstrates his ambition to move beyond the limitations of his peasant background. Tiger becomes able to employ a more standard English when the situation calls for it and even heaps scorn on a creole doctor who seeks to intimidate him with the “pretty words” of cultured British English.

Tiger believes that, “All different kinds of people in Trinidad, you have to mix up with all of them,” and he ponders a political career because, “Is politics that build a country.” He finally settles into the use of urban creole-English to communicate with his fellows. Tiger recognizes that his ideal of a Trinidadian society based on brotherhood is more a wish than a reality and that much work needs to be done. Tiger yearns for something new, and although he is somewhat apprehensive about change, he knows that it must come and that he must prepare for it.

While Tiger is a fully realized personality, the other characters in the novel are basically stereotypes....

(The entire section is 753 words.)