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 his black heritage. He is Sarah’s father, who raped her mother because she would not voluntarily consummate the marriage. Lumumba, although in conflict between his guilt and fear and his need to fulfill his mother’s expectations of him as a savior, pleads with Sarah to accept him and to help him save their race. Sarah’s escape to her mother exacerbates the denial of her African ancestry. Sarah’s father has died violently but continues to return. He appears to embody the part of Sarah that relates to the time she spent with her family in Africa.
Duchess of Hapsburg
Duchess of Hapsburg, one of Sarah’s selves, mirrored by both Victoria Regina and Jesus. She empathizes with Sarah’s fear and challenges the father’s right to return. The duchess reinforces Sarah’s belief in her room as a safe...
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