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 on the prison chain gang, a slave auction, an African witch doctor, and the Crocodile God, all representing the stripping away of his layers of intelligence and “civilization.” He learns nothing from these encounters but becomes instead a more primitive man, driven only by his fear. In the morning, it turns out he has traveled all night...
(The entire section is 738 words.)
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