The Characters

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

From the point of view of character, the shipboard world of Natives of My Person is divided into two halves, the world of masters and the world of men. In the latter world, the characters have actual names such as Baptiste, Ivan, and Marcel. Considered collectively, the crew members’ names resist the identification of Lime Stone with any specific imperial power. Many of the names have French associations. Of all the various empires to have made their marks on the Caribbean, the French was, arguably, the least prominent, so that the French emphasis becomes part of the structure of inversion upon which the novel is based.

The men, by virtue of their names, attain a certain individuality, but it is an attainment that they are not permitted to experience as empowerment. Such a condition of psychological disfranchisement is endemic to life at sea. The result is that, for all their colorfulness, the various skills of their trades, and the range of their differentiated backgrounds, the ordinary seamen are utterly dependent on the ebb and flow of surmise, rumor, and gossip that they trawl for indications of what lies in store for them. They are held captive both by the enigmatic Commandant and, more fundamentally, by a social structure that demands that they be kept in a state of lesser awareness than the officers. The effect of this dependence is that their individuality is purely nominal.

The manner in which the men are entrapped is largely social. In important respects, they are free of the sexual attachments that determine the fates of their superiors in rank, but this freedom is unable to assume a constructive form. There is no alternative available to the...

(The entire section is 689 words.)

Natives of My Person Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

The Commandant

The Commandant, a wealthy soldier of Lime Stone who leads the illegal voyage of the ship Reconnaissance, given to him by his mistress, to colonize San Cristobal (Isles of the Black Rock). He is strongly connected to the ruling classes of Lime Stone but undertakes his voyage without the sanction of the rulers. Hearing the Boatswain’s lurid story of the Lady of the House of Trade and Justice, he halts the voyage and is murdered by mutinous officers.

The Lady of the House of Trade and Justice

The Lady of the House of Trade and Justice, the daughter of Master Cecil, mistress of the Commandant, and wife of Gabriel Tate de Lysle. She makes use of the Boatswain, who tries to murder her. She is among the women on the second ship, traveling to San Cristobal.


Pinteados, the tall, Antarctican pilot of the Reconnaissance, somewhere over the age of thirty-five, who tells the Surgeon of his relations with the Surgeon’s wife while she is in an asylum. He survives the mutiny and desertion to tell his story to Admiral Badaloza, to whom he hints that possession of the ship might be negotiated. He is the Commandant’s superior not only in the tactics of survival but also in ultimate material success.


Sasha, a ten-year-old boy who is forced to serve on the Reconnaissance. Less than four feet tall, with a boil in the corner of his mouth, he witnesses the murder of the Commandant, whom he worships, and kills the Surgeon and the Steward.

Gabriel Tate de Lysle

Gabriel Tate de Lysle, the lord treasurer to the House of Trade and Justice. He used an orphan girl to trap the Steward with incest as a means of protecting himself after he stole rare maps from the Steward.

The Steward

The Steward, a neat, red-bearded officer on the Reconnaissance with great knowledge of maps and charts. He fingers a wedding ring hanging from a neck chain. He joined the voyage to free himself from his wife and her connections. When he learns that his wife is waiting at San Cristobal, he and the Surgeon lead the officers’ mutiny. He and the Surgeon kill the Commandant; he is killed by Sasha.

The Surgeon


(The entire section is 950 words.)

Natives of My Person The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

The Commandant is a man who has earned high honors in his society. Well respected for his accomplishments as a soldier and commander, he has no impulse toward conventional material and social ambitions. What does awaken within him and propel him is a desire to establish a new type of society in which relations between people would be free of the corruption and exploitation of the world of Lime Stone. He would free himself, and his new community, of the oppressive authority of his homeland. With all of his fortitude, however, he has problems with the woman in his life. His mistress becomes a marriage-of-convenience wife, the epitome of all that from which he wants to break loose. Her husband, the Lord Treasurer of the House of Trade and Justice, the real ruler of the realm, is an evil man whose oppressive authority feeds on and infests the Kingdom of Lime Stone.

For several years, the Commandant has failed to achieve a relationship of mutual respect with the Lady who loves him and who is eager to bind together their lives. Astutely, she accuses him of having another mistress: Her rival is the sea, with its appeal of challenging venture; it is his work which pulls him from her presence for long periods of time. She challenges his conception of his “work.” She terms his military prowess “a butcher’s skill” and confronts him: “You call it work. You call your butchery work?” That is not her last word: “Whatever you are,” she nevertheless says, “I love you. It is you I love.” He will not be able to say this in a like fashion about her. He has chosen her as his mate in the new-world community, but he falters when, without benefit of her explanation, he hears the report of her scandalous behavior with Boatswain. Having been a conqueror and dispossessor of new-world populations, the Commandant is on the verge of setting up a community in which women would enjoy genuine respect. His Lady has dramatized the perverse status of women in Lime Stone by actually acting the whore with Boatswain. In speaking with Steward’s Wife and Surgeon’s Wife of her complicated and anguished behavior, the Lady says of men and husbands of the Kingdom, “their whoredom is also the whoredom of the House of Trade and Justice. It is the national principle of the continent of Lime Stone. What safer consolation or protection can a citizen have than to know that his private vice is the nation’s religion?” The Commandant, whom an observer calls “a man of dangerous pride,” is ignorant of the depth of her action. He is reduced to helplessness by his deflated sense of himself; mutiny oversweeps the Reconnaissance, and his enterprise fades. Lost is the opportunity of the...

(The entire section is 1099 words.)