The Chickencoop Chinaman Characters

Frank Chin

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Tam Lum

Tam Lum, a Chinese American writer and filmmaker. Tam Lum is a young writer cast loose from his Chinese heritage, displaced from mainstream American culture, and obsessed with creating a unified artistic identity and discovering an appropriate voice and language in which to tell his stories. He is puzzled, cross, mocking, frustrated, isolated, and essentially passive, with a touch of the poet and a gift for telling a story. In the play’s major action, Tam Lum journeys to Pittsburgh to interview Charley Popcorn for a documentary film on the life and career of Ovaltine Jack Dancer, a black fighter who had been the childhood hero of Tam Lum and Kenji.


Kenji, sometimes called Blackjap Kenji, a Japanese American research dentist who has been Tam Lum’s friend since childhood. In his youth, Kenji rejected his cultural and racial heritage, just as did Tam Lum. Together, they found heroes and role models in black men, such as Ovaltine Jack Dancer, and in media heroes, such as the Lone Ranger. Tam Lum stays at Kenji’s house in Pittsburgh and renews their friendship while in the city to interview Charley Popcorn. In contrast to Tam Lum, Kenji moves toward assimilation during the play. At the end, Lee will stay with Kenji, as his wife or lover, and Robbie, Lee’s son, will have the father he seeks.


Lee, an attractive Eurasian or Chinese American woman whom Kenji has invited...

(The entire section is 572 words.)