The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

By having an anonymous narrator tell his story, Rush restricts the reader to his main character’s vision of events. Although Rush’s allusiveness and hieratic diction sometimes intrude to betray the mastermind behind the narrator and create some dissonance in point of view, most of what she reports can be easily accepted. For example, she immediately reveals much about herself by confessing that she could never mate with a Rhodesian or South African (because they come from racist countries), with anyone sympathetic to Ronald Reagan, or with a black African (because “male chauvinism is in the air Africans breathe”). Her reflections on her “carnal involvements” reveal her as subject to sexual appetites but not given to unrestrained sexual adventuring; she remarks that “if I was clear about anything in my life I was clear about not staying in Africa forever.” Her desert journey to Tsau shows her to be physically courageous to the point of imprudence. Her constant meditation on events provides a mirror to her inner thoughts and character, reflecting an extraordinarily likable and intelligent young woman with an independent mind and spirit.

The substance of Denoon’s character emerges in a dialogue with an African Marxist that the narrator overhears at a party before she even meets Denoon. His eloquence on a “third way” depicts Denoon as contemptuous of exploitative capitalism but not oblivious to the naïvetes of an unrealistic socialism....

(The entire section is 477 words.)