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, however, is a tormented person who is consumed by guilt because he benefited from the dropping of the atomic bomb. This other persona, denoted by italics, speaks in a poetic, if often profane, style, abandoning Bailey’s usual wisecracking mode. Interestingly, when Naylor reaches deep into the thoughts of Sister Carrie and Sugar Man in the second chapter of the book, she again uses italics to mark the movement from what they say or think on a superficial level to what they deeply feel.
All the characters in “The Jam” except Sadie and Mariam are revealed in a fairly straightforward fashion. First, Bailey introduces them, and then they tell their stories to whomever is listening, perhaps to a reader who has by now been transported to the café. Each voice is unique. Ms. Maple’s complex,...
(The entire section is 427 words.)