The Third Life of Grange Copeland Characters

Alice Walker

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Although Grange is the title character, the majority of characters in the novel are black women, and the novel progresses as an account of the women in Grange’s life and what he has done directly or indirectly to them. In structuring major parts of the novel around Grange’s struggles to find himself and to be a responsible man, Walker presents his character primarily from an interior perspective. Although the external conditions of racism and poverty are important to the novel’s meanings, how Grange responds to those conditions is the key to his character presentation.

In his first life, when he thinks of himself as a victim of injustice, he responds to his condition by taking his frustrations out on those closest to him, his wife and his son. He treats both cruelly, because expressing his love outwardly and in positive ways would mean acknowledging his inability to do anything for his family that might change their condition. Beyond his abuse of his family, he retreats into himself and avoids who he is through excessive drinking and by having an affair with Josie. Walker depicts Grange as a coward, a man afraid to face up to his kinship responsibilities. This point is made when Walker has Grange use the occasion of his wife’s affair with Shipley as a rationalization for leaving his family.

Grange, however, is not a static character. He confronts new experiences and a second life in New York City, and he begins the process of coming to terms with who he is and what he might do to make up for his failures in his first life. A growing sense of a new self marks his reentry to...

(The entire section is 655 words.)

The Third Life of Grange Copeland The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Walker’s purpose in this novel is to provoke an empathetic as well as critical response to the race problem in America. She writes primarily for readers who do not understand racism and its effects on personality—hence her strategy to create black characters that feel intensely the pressures of the situation, characters that are agonizingly human. She gives her characters a real setting, the American South that she knows so well. In fact, when she leaves the cotton fields, the dusty clay roads and quiet woods, the drafty tenant shacks, and travels north to Central Park, she loses the touch of immediacy. Walker is also successful with dialogue; she knows the dialect of her people. Nothing captures better the color, the humor, and the pain of the black experience than her manipulations of nonstandard English, and her vivid and often raunchy metaphors. In order to reveal the motivation behind the characters’ behavior, Walker assumes an omniscient point of view and moves the center of consciousness from one character to another. First one sees the world through Brownfield’s eyes, understands why he develops such hatred for his wife, his father, and his daughter. From his own perspective, his father never loved him. Grange’s abandonment is, for him, a selfish, unfeeling act. From Brownfield, Walker transfers the reader to Josie’s mind, where the keys to her weakness and her prostitution still dwell in her unconscious, in her dreams. In many scenes, Walker assumes total omniscience, reporting not only observable events but also the thoughts of various characters. In the second half of the novel, she mainly reports the thoughts of Grange and Ruth. One comes to understand that Grange’s abandonment of his family was the result of extraordinary sensitivity and frustration, that Grange and Ruth, whom the society regards as crazy, are isolated examples of sanity, and that Ruth’s dogged independence and defensiveness derive from the horrible...

(The entire section is 797 words.)

The Third Life of Grange Copeland Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Grange Copeland

Grange Copeland, the protagonist, a black sharecropper in Georgia. A tall, gaunt man who has worked hard all of his life, Grange is poor, ignorant, and in debt to the white plantation owner. He abuses his wife and son in response to his own powerlessness and eventually abandons them to try his luck in the North. While living in Harlem, he attacks racism, rather than merely reacting to it as he had done in Georgia. He realizes that he cannot succeed in a one-man attack on racial discrimination and returns to Georgia. On his return, he marries his longtime lover, Josie, but treats her badly and tries in vain to keep his son from making the mistakes that he himself has made. Only his granddaughter, Ruth, receives his love, as he tries to make up for past sins. Grange never loses his hatred of white people, but he comes to realize how his hatred has made him weak. He tries to make a life for himself and for Ruth that will enable them to stay free by never depending on whites for anything.

Margaret Copeland

Margaret Copeland, Grange’s first wife and the mother of Brownfield and a bastard son. In the early years of her marriage, Margaret is soft and has sweet breath, and she is as submissive to her husband as a dog. After years of abuse, she becomes hardened and turns to drinking and promiscuity. It is her sexual relationship with the white plantation owner, resulting in the birth of a child, that finally drives Grange away for good. Margaret has never stopped loving Grange, and when he leaves, she kills herself and the baby, leaving fifteen-year-old Brownfield to fend for himself.

Brownfield Copeland

Brownfield Copeland, the neglected son of Grange and Margaret. As a baby, he is unattended, unfed, and unchanged all day because both parents work in the fields. He never attends school and envies his cousins up North. Abandoned by both parents at the age of fifteen, he sets out to find the North but only gets as far...

(The entire section is 820 words.)

The Third Life of Grange Copeland Characters

Walker's protagonist is Grange Copeland, whose changing influence on his family spans three generations, which Walker represents as three...

(The entire section is 1106 words.)