The Characters

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Fernie May Rosen, the central character of “Fern,” is beautiful but unhappy. She is the illegitimate daughter of a black woman and a white Jewish man, and she is thus doubly a social outsider. She spends most of her days listlessly sitting on the porch of her rural Georgia home, the languid object of many men’s desires. Her remoteness and sexual indifference lead her many lovers to abandon her, but they remain forever under her spell and bring her gifts as signs of their adoration.

In “Blood-Burning Moon,” Tom Burwell is portrayed as a gentle introvert. When he is frustrated by his inability to express his feelings for Louisa, however, he flies into a rage, leading to the story’s tragic conclusion.

In “Bona and Paul,” the central figure is Paul Johnson, a black man who is light-skinned enough to pass as white. Paul’s uncertainty about his racial status makes him aloof and inaccessible. Although his white girlfriend Bona is attracted to him because of his blackness, his ambivalence and his denial of a part of his heritage cause her to leave him.

Ralph Kabnis, the central character of the book’s final section, is a northern black teacher of southern descent who comes to rural Georgia in search of his roots. He has difficulty adapting to his new environment, however; sensitive and neurotic, he cannot accept what he sees as the submissiveness of the South’s black population. When he is confronted by the apparent indifference of his fellow African Americans to their situation, the results are catastrophic for him. He loses his teaching job and begins working as an apprentice in a wagon shop, but his spiritual and emotional decline continues. By the end of the work, he is a childlike, dependent failure.

Cane Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Fernie May Rosen

Fernie May Rosen, the beautiful, unhappy daughter of a black mother and a white Jewish father. She spends most days listlessly sitting on the porch of her rural Georgia home. She is the object of men’s desires. Her remote indifference leads men to abandon her, but ironically they remain under her spell and bring her gifts as signs of their adoration.

Tom Burwell

Tom Burwell, a black field hand competing with a white man for the attentions of Louisa, a black woman working for his rival’s family. A gentle introvert, Tom cannot express his feelings to Louisa. In a rage, he kills her other lover, and he is lynched by a white mob.

Paul Johnson

Paul Johnson, a Southern black man whose skin is light enough to allow him to pass as white. He is studying at a Chicago physical education school, where he meets Bona Hale, a white Southerner. She is attracted to him because of his blackness, but his uncertainty about his racial status makes him aloof and inaccessible. His ambivalence and denial of part of his heritage cause Bona to leave him.

Ralph Kabnis

Ralph Kabnis, a Northern black teacher of Southern descent who comes to rural Georgia apparently in search of his roots. Sensitive and neurotic, he cannot accept what he sees as submissiveness on the part of other black people. After he loses his teaching job, he becomes an apprentice in a wagon shop, but his spiritual and emotional decline continues. At the end of the novel, he is a childlike, dependent failure.

Cane Characters

Unlike a standard novel, Cane is not a coherent unified narrative. It is actually a collection of stories, poems, sketches, and a play that...

(The entire section is 2040 words.)

Cane Characters

Avey
Avey is a popular girl in Washington, D.C. The young men on the street corner pay attention to the fact that she...

(The entire section is 3023 words.)