Tish Rivers as narrator provides an account of the day-to-day events that move the plot forward, and she also provides the background information that gives credence to the evaluations that she makes of the people around her. Baldwin, writing from the female point of view, appears to understand the female psyche and has made Tish into a believable human being. That the vocabulary and the philosophy are sometimes those of James Baldwin does not make Tish less of a woman; instead, she appears at times to have wisdom beyond her age and education, to be fifty rather than nineteen.
The unborn child is the catalyst for the novel. Without the reactions to this expected birth, the gentleness and love of family life could not be told as effectively.
Fonny, the sculptor, is a sensitive young adult, secure in the knowledge of Tish’s love and in his ability to sculpt. His interactions with his friend Danny, when they meet by chance after Danny’s having been in prison, emphasize the positive aspects of friendship. Fonny’s asking Joe for Tish’s hand in marriage also adds to the portrait of a youth who is forthright in his dealings with people. Yet Tish does relate that Fonny quit vocational school only after stealing woodworking tools, breaking into the school, and stealing most of the wood from the shop. As far as Tish is concerned, these acts are justifiable because the educators are teaching the students to be slaves.
In the Rivers family, there seems to be ample love among the family members. Sis has two jobs. From one,...
(The entire section is 636 words.)