As the narrator and protagonist of Rosa Guy's novel, The Friends, Phyllisia Cathy finds life in New York City's Harlem neighborhoods quite different from her life in the West Indies. Though Phyllisia is the more intelligent of the two sisters, older sibling Ruby is more attractive and has an easier time making friends. Ruby is also the favorite of her father, Calvin, in part due to his obsessive preference for outer appearances. When Phyllisia's mother dies after a recurrence of breast cancer, her life becomes even more difficult. She argues constantly with her father, who eventually whips her. By the end of the story, Phyllisia and her oft-angry father make amends, but it is clear that Calvin Cathy is the primary antagonist in the story.