The narrator is the only character that the author fully develops; the other characters seem to exist only to enhance his personality. He is essentially weak, vacillating, and ambivalent. His ambivalence is evident in the contradictions between his principles and his practices. These contradictions are apparent in his attitudes about race, about relationships, both casual and intimate, and about music. For example, during his school days, although he is callously reminded by his white teacher that he is black, and although he is rejected by his white classmates, he admittedly has “strong aversion” to being classed with the black children. Looking in the mirror at the “ivory whiteness” of his skin, he laments the fact that he could possibly be considered a “nigger.” Also, while playing in the club in New York, he is as disturbed at seeing a rich white widow in the presence of a black male companion as any white man of the time would be.
This ambivalence extends also to the narrator’s personal relationships. He takes pride in the achievements of African Americans, and he expresses great admiration for the photographs of “every coloured man in America who had ’done anything’” that adorn the walls of the club where he works. He has few black friends, however, and those that he does have, in both the North and South, are of the upper classes. He is revolted by the appearance and actions of all African Americans except those he calls...
(The entire section is 506 words.)