Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Brutus Jones, emperor of an unnamed island in the West Indies. A large, powerful, and street-smart man, he was for ten years a Pullman porter in the United States. He killed his friend Jeff in a fight over a game of dice and knocked out a guard to escape from prison. He fled as a stowaway and went to the island, where he used his urban ways and vague hints about his violent past to establish himself as emperor of the island. Luck also played a part: When Lem hired a gunman to kill Jones early in his reign, the gun misfired. Jones has convinced the natives that he has a powerful magic and that he can be killed only with a silver bullet. Jones knows that he will not be able to maintain his position for long, but he does not care. He lives well in a rich and gaudy palace. He has stolen a fortune from the natives and put it safely in a foreign bank. Even when the revolt comes sooner than he expects, he shrugs and simply begins his carefully planned evacuation. As he tells Smithers, he has hidden food at the edge of the Great Forest and he has memorized the trails, so that he can make his way easily—even in the dark—to the other side of the island, where a French gunboat is at anchor. Once he reaches the forest, however, Jones is unnerved by the sound of the native drums, which beat insistently throughout the night. As fear overtakes him, he stumbles through the forest, encountering Little Formless Fears, the ghost of Jeff, his comrades...
(The entire section is 738 words.)
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The black man Brutus Jones killed over a crap game in the United States before the action of the play began. Appearing in Scene III as one of Jones’s hallucinations, Jeff is brown rather than blackskinned, thin, middle-aged, and dressed in a Pullman porter’s uniform. In Jones’s hallucination, Jeff tosses the dice like a robot.
The main character in The Emperor Jones, Brutus Jones is a tall and powerfully built American negro man of middle age. Formerly a Pullman (train) car porter in the United States, Jones comes to the West Indian island where the play takes place and becomes ‘‘emperor’’ after convincing the natives that he has magical powers. Before coming to the island, Jones had escaped from an American prison, where he was being confined for killing a man over a crap game. Jones exudes a strength and confidence that commands fear and respect from all around him even while he reigns quite ruthlessly as Emperor. His eyes indicate extraordinary cunning, intelligence, and a careful shrewdness.
To make himself appear regal, Jones wears a light-blue uniform decorated with brass buttons and heavy gold chevrons and braids. His pants are bright red with a light-blue stripe down the side and he wears patent leather boots with brass spurs and a holster with a long-barreled, pearl-handled revolver. In the play he speaks with a strongly marked black dialect, as in, ‘‘who dare whistle dat...
(The entire section is 767 words.)