Bailey's Café Characters
by Gloria Naylor

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Bailey's Café Characters

The characters in Bailey's Cafe are those who come to Bailey's Cafe or stay at Eve's boarding house. Each of them has a tragic background and is trying to heal from trauma; they find their way to the cafe and boarding house in different ways and take different routes to heal themselves.

Bailey works at the cafe and isn't named in the story. He's referred to from the name of the business. He fought in World War II and was extremely traumatized by the experience. When he couldn't take it anymore, he felt a hand on his shoulder and ended up working in the cafe along with his wife Nadine.

Nadine is the wife of Bailey and also works at the cafe.

Eve is the woman who runs the boarding house where people go to heal. You can only find it via Bailey's Cafe. Her godfather was a preacher who locked her up and refused to let her have physical interaction with other people. Eventually, he kicked her out when he found her doing something he considered inappropriate with a boy. She spent a decade in New Orleans before she founded her boarding house. She was the first person to patronize the cafe.

Gabe runs the pawnshop that is never open. The sign on the door sends people to Bailey's, where they can find Eve's. He breaks the cycle once when a young, pregnant girl comes to his shop looking for help and sends her directly to Eve's.

Miriam is a girl from Ethiopia. She's fourteen and pregnant despite never having sex, because she was genitally mutilated to the point where sex is impossible. She was kicked out of the village after she wasn't able to say how she got pregnant. She was scared of the city and wandering when she met Gabe and went into his shop. Eventually, she gives birth to a son named George.

Stanley is a black cross-dresser who has trouble finding work because of his race and dress habits. He was in jail for awhile for refusing to fight in World War II over issues of racism. He's on the verge of suicide when he finds his way to Eve, who helps him come up with an idea to go into marketing. He is able to have enough money to live on for the first time.

Jesse loses her husband and child to her husband's racist family. Traumatized, she starts using heroin. When she meets Eve, she goes through detox and then Eve provides her the necessary items to start using again because she says that being clean has to be Jesse's choice. She uses again, detoxes again, and then stops using.

Mary is a beautiful young woman whose family tried to protect her from the sexual urges and judgements of others. She was constantly hated for her beauty. She starts having sex with anyone to dull her pain, which causes problems with her family. Eventually, she starts cutting herself to change how she looks. When she's staying with Eve, her father comes to try to find her. Eve sends him away and promises that eventually Mary will heal and come back.

Sadie is a woman who was abused and sexually exploited by her mother. She's sterilized on her mother's orders as well. Later, she marries a man who is also abusive and is victimized by her children after his death. She ends up going to Eve's looking for peace and acceptance.

Ester is another resident at Eve's. She was sold into marriage by her brother when she was twelve years old; she stayed with her husband for twelve years before she left. During her marriage, she was sexually abused.

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Although Bailey is not the only narrator in Bailey’s Café , his voice dominates the action of the novel; he is truly the “maestro” of the concert. He is also the loquacious man at the counter, observing others and, like them, trying to understand the meaning of life. Obviously, he has always been that kind of person. Even as a child, he was trying to guess how others felt—for example, the Van Morrisons, for whom his parents worked. As Bailey tells the story of his life, he will stop periodically to act out little interchanges between his parents, conversations with Nadine, even the chants of the men at boot camp. Beneath this outgoing personality,...

(The entire section is 1,618 words.)