Like the narrative course of the novel, which takes John Washington back to the place where his father worked through his life’s purpose and back through time in an examination of history and heritage, the method of characterization Bradley employs is also devised as part of a multiple perspective. John Washington is presented as the narrative consciousness of the novel, and all the other characters are essentially seen from his point of view—that is, from the outside. John, however, is extremely perceptive, and he has been educated as a historian who must exercise the discipline that insists on more than an emotional or instinctive response. Consequently, he is intelligently sympathetic and convincing in his accounts of the other characters and is a reliable narrator. When necessary, Bradley will also use an omniscient point of view, particularly when recounting John’s dialogue with Judith, a technique that indicates that she is an independent figure. This is appropriate, since she presents John with the challenge that is one of the propelling aspects of the narrative.
Bradley has made Moses Washington an exceptionally capable man, and it is John’s awed assessment of his father that ratifies readers’ reactions to Moses’ exploits. John’s historical foundation gives him a standard against which to measure Moses’ accomplishments. Along with C. K. Washington, Moses combines the mind of a precise thinker with the athletic ability of a...
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