The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

The characters in Continental Drift are depicted by Banks as the products of their socially realistic environments. Bob DuBois, for example, is a rather ordinary blue-collar New Englander whose sense of entrapment by the natural and economic restrictions of his life motivates his desire to “drift” (a pervasive metaphor in the book) south in search of a new start. Banks, too, occasionally plumbs Bob’s psychological state, as when he thinks he has two separate selves, one a “dutiful, prudent, custodial, faithful and even-tempered” husband and father, and another, secret self that is “reckless, irresponsible, faithless and irrational.” These two versions of Bob finally collide in south Florida. Instead of gaining the bright future he had envisioned, Bob discovers that he has lost his past and the things that used to give his life a semblance of order and meaning.

Vanise Dorsinville, the young Haitian mother who risks everything to get to Miami, is also presented by Banks as the victim of an oppressive socioeconomic environment. While her inner state is not as demarcated as that of Bob’s, Vanise nevertheless serves as a metaphor for the untainted immigrant dream. Instead of finding freedom in the promised land, however, she is left to survive bereft of her family and her sanity in a Miami ghetto.

Avery Boone, who grew up with Bob in New Hampshire but made the move to south Florida several years before his friend, is...

(The entire section is 525 words.)