Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Sarah, also referred to as Negro, a student and poet who has retreated to the room that contains her treasures. She is a pale black woman who wants either to deny her black heritage or to die. Wearing black clothes and an executioner’s rope, Sarah has masses of frizzy hair, one clump of which she carries with her, but only blood for facial features. She verbalizes the internal conflict between her ancestries as a trap from which she cannot extricate herself despite surrounding herself with white friends to guard against recognition of her black birthright. Sarah sees her father as God but cannot reconcile his rape of her with her image of him as Christ and believes that she split her father’s head with the ebony mask. Sarah’s “funnyhouse” is the only safe place she knows, and her “selves” are the only ones with whom she interacts lovingly, but they are deceptions. Finally, her father overcomes her, and Sarah is found hanging in her room.
Patrice Lumumba, also called Man and Wally, one of Sarah’s selves. He sees himself not as the murdered savior of the black race but as a now-crucified Judas who has betrayed mother, wife, and child. A large black man with a shattered head, Lumumba has no identifiable face; the area of his face is covered by blood and skull fragments. He carries an ebony mask. Like Sarah, Patrice Lumumba wants to barricade himself with friends and externals against...
(The entire section is 939 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Funnyhouse of a Negro Characters. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!
The Landlady is a white woman who runs the boarding house where Sarah lives. She comments on the action and Sarah’s life, providing a needed perspective on what is happening. She believes that Sarah has hidden in her room ever since Patrice Lumumba was murdered and her father hung herself in a Harlem hotel.
The Landlady also says that Sarah’s hair has fallen out because of her suffering. She offers insight into Sarah’s father’s background, and recalls incidents in which he tried to reconcile with his daughter. It is the Landlady who discovers that Sarah has killed herself.
(The entire section is 102 words.)
Patrice Lumumba is one of Sarah’s inner selves. He is a black man whose head is split in half; his eyes have blood and tissue in them. He carries an ebony mask.
Patrice seems to represent Sarah’s father, though he describes himself in the exact same words that Sarah uses to describe herself. Yet he also introduces the theme of self-hatred in the play. Like all the inner selves, Patrice has lost his hair.
(The entire section is 76 words.)
Raymond is a Jewish poet who lives above Sarah in the rooming house. She describes him as a boyfriend who is interested in African Americans.
At the end of the play, Raymond is present when the Landlady discovers that Sarah has killed herself. He informs the Landlady that Sarah’s father is a doctor married to a white woman. It seems that Sarah’s father never committed suicide.
(The entire section is 68 words.)
Sarah is the protagonist of the play and is represented on stage by four of her inner selves: Queen Victoria, the Duchess of Hapsburg, Jesus, and Patrice Lumumba.
Only a few facts are clear among the many versions of her ‘‘reality.’’ Sarah is the product of an interracial marriage: her mother is white and her father is African-American. She studied English at a college in New York City, writes poetry, and works as a librarian. She lives in a brownstone rooming house in New York City.
Sarah’s primary problem relates to racial identity and related issues: she is conflicted about her heritage, especially concerning her father. By the end of the play, it is clear that Sarah has killed herself.
What is not clear is her real relationship to Raymond, who also lives in the rooming house. She may or may not have been involved with him. Similarly, she may or may not have been born in Africa, and her mother may or may not have been committed to an insane asylum. Sarah’s inner con- flicts form the heart of the play.
(The entire section is 184 words.)
Duchess of Hapsburg
The Duchess is one of Sarah’s inner selves, arguably the closest to Sarah’s true self. She represents the aspect of Sarah’s subconscious that is racist. She blames her father for her mother’s death. Like all the inner selves, she has lost almost all of her hair.
One of Sarah’s inner selves, Jesus is a hunchbacked dwarf with yellow skin. Sarah describes him as the son of Queen Victoria. He shares the Duchess of Hapsburg’s disdain of Sarah’s father. Jesus decides to hunt down and kill Patrice Lumumba. Like all the inner selves, he loses almost all of his hair.
See Patrice Lumumba
Queen Victoria Regina
Queen Victoria is one of Sarah’s inner selves; she looks exactly like the Duchess of Hapsburg. Sarah describes her as the mother of Jesus. She describes how Sarah’s father searched for her. Like the other inner selves, Queen Victoria loses most of her hair during the play.
(The entire section is 177 words.)