Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Makak, “an old Negro,” the hermit of Monkey Mountain. Sixty years old and ugly, he was named for the macaque monkey, which he resembles. He is by trade a wood-gatherer and charcoal burner, but in his dream he is also the king of Africa, following the instructions of an apparition of a beautiful white woman. Partly mad, partly possessed, and partly drunk, he possibly dreams the entire play in Lestrade’s cell, after a night of drunkenness in a local tavern. He is arrested for stealing coal and for disorderly conduct. In an elaborate allegorical configuration, he is the Christ figure at the beginning of his public life, performing miracles, collecting followers, and leaving behind exaggerated stories of his wonders, both betrayed and believed, as the Lion of Africa who will lead his black brethren back to Africa, but only after killing their “whiteness.” He experiences a sort of apotheosis when he kills the “white” woman who haunted him into this religious and political mission.
Corporal Lestrade, a mulatto guard of the town jail, “doing the white man’s work” in jailing and questioning Makak but finally “confessing” to his blackness in the final apotheosis. At first cruel in the use of his power, he forces the villagers into hypocritically agreeing to his absurd statements and pursues Makak to “hunt” him like an animal. The name of his rank suggests his allegorical...
(The entire section is 586 words.)
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Basil is a black man (or perhaps apparition) who appears when death is imminent for someone in the scene. Wearing a dark coat and hat, he is described by some as a cabinetmaker. Basil also plays a constant role in Makak's journey after he reaches Monkey Mountain. He compels Corporal Lestrade to confess his sins, resulting in Lestrade's personal epiphany. When the scene shifts to Africa, Basil reads the list of the accused.
Josephus is the sick man who is healed by Makak. He suffers from a fever without sweat until Makak saves his life.
Corporal Lestrade runs the jail and is responsible for the arrest of Makak. Lestrade is a mulatto and, at the beginning of the play, identifies himself with the white authority figures. He follows the rule of the law to the letter and is contemptuous of the three black men. At the beginning of Makak's dream, Lestrade remains like this. In the scene in which Moustique impersonates Makak in the marketplace, Lestrade emphasizes his beliefs on law and law enforcement to Market Inspector Pamphilion. Though Lestrade is stabbed by Makak during the prison escape initiated by Tigre, he later joins Makak's journey after finding the three on Monkey Mountain. Lestrade stabs and kills Tigre when he tries to kill them. Lestrade plays an even bigger role when the three...
(The entire section is 1143 words.)