The Characters

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Appalachee Red is told in the folk tradition of African American storytelling. Thus, there is no central plot that develops from beginning to end but rather a number of episodes that are designed to instruct and entertain. Likewise, there is little character development, and many of the characters are types rather than complex characters in the literary sense of the term.

Appalachee Red, for example, is a larger-than-life character. He is a big man, physically, and as powerful and mysterious as he is large in physique. In fact, it may be safe to say that Red is among the most mysterious characters in African American literature, an idea that Andrews capitalizes upon in the narrative. Red is seen primarily through the narrator’s eyes. He speaks very little, a fact that adds considerably to his mystery. In addition, he is described as catlike, again a trait that adds to the power and appeal of the character. Similarly, although there are some facts of Red’s background to which readers are made privy—his real identity as the son of Little Bit Thompson and her white employer, and the fact that he served in World War II in Germany—little is told of what he did during the years leading up to his enlistment in the Army. This lapse of time contributes to the strangeness of Appalachee Red’s sudden appearance in the town of Appalachee. What does become clear upon Red’s equally mysterious departure eighteen years later is that he had revenge in...

(The entire section is 551 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Appalachee Red

Appalachee Red, owner of a café and gambling house. “Red” wanders into the town of Appalachee on Thanksgiving Day, 1945, and soon captivates the town and its residents, both black and white. Appalachee Red, as he comes to be called by the locals, is the son of Little Bit Thompson and her white employer, the wealthy landowner John Morgan. Red has returned to Appalachee to claim his birthright and to exact revenge on those who have wronged him most. Red is tall and broad-shouldered, and he appears Caucasian, with long, flowing black hair. He is quiet, mysterious, and moves soundlessly and deliberately, like a cat. In little time, Red acquires ownership of the house built for his mother by her white lover; its owner, Sam Wallace, dies mysteriously and wills the property to Red. Red also seduces the black mistress of Appalachee’s white, racist police chief and soon acquires controls of all the town’s vice—gambling, liquor, and prostitution. He becomes the fear and envy of Appalachee. On November 22, 1963, eighteen years to the day after he returned to Appalachee, Red leaves the town, after the funeral of his mother, but not before killing the sheriff and being joined by his half sister, white socialite Roxanne Morgan. He is not heard from again.

Baby Sweet Jackson

Baby Sweet Jackson, Red’s live-in lover, also called the Black Peach. Baby Sweet’s sensuous dancing brings about the wrath of her father, overseer Poor Boy Jackson, and the lustful intentions of the boss, Edward Turner. Knowing that she is powerless to fight Turner’s advances, Baby Sweet runs away to Appalachee. At the age of fifteen, she reluctantly becomes the mistress...

(The entire section is 697 words.)