The Characters

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

A third-person narrative with a limited omniscient point of view, Bright Shadow’s characters are known through the protagonist, Abby Jackson. She is a dynamic heroine, just as she was in Marked by Fire, but this time her changes occur as she tries to overcome an emotional trauma caused by her aunt’s bizarre murder. All the characters are described with the lavish use of adjectives by the author.

Abby has dusky-lashed, cocoa-colored eyes set in a pecan-brown face. There is a birthmark on her cheek. She is independent, tenderhearted, and a good student. Her voice is a sweet soprano, and her face mirrors intense grief over the loss of her aunt. Her forebodings come to her in dreams.

Abby’s view of Carl Lee, the boy she loves, dwells on his features, such as eyes that are shiny and liquid like still water. She thinks of his hair like blackberries and his skin as like that of a ripe plum. He has a strong baritone voice, and “strong” is a word Abby uses often in thoughts of him. She seems to be connecting him with her father, Strong, who sees the boy in a totally different way. To Strong Jackson, Carl is a “skillet headed ape.”

Abby’s father, Strong, is stern. He has broad shoulders and thick, black hair salted with sprigs of white, and he often bellows. He can draw blueprints and build furniture. His wife, Patience, is plump and caramel-colored, with snow-white hair that falls in braids to her...

(The entire section is 548 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Abyssinia (Abby) Jackson

Abyssinia (Abby) Jackson, a young woman attending a local college with the intention of earning a degree in science, with a minor in literature, as preparation for medical school. She is the first member of her family to seek an advanced degree. Her parents are extremely intelligent and well-spoken, and they have stressed the virtues of a traditional education and a solid religious (Pentecostal) background. Abby is proud of her African American heritage and enthusiastically curious about both the social milieu and the natural phenomena of the countryside in Oklahoma where she lives. Her relationship with Carl Lee Jefferson, a young man also attending Langston College, is initially complicated by her father’s misgivings about Carl Lee’s uncertain family background. Abby’s love for Carl Lee and the quality of his character eventually lead to parental approval. During the course of the narrative, Abby confronts the presence of evil in a previously secure environment, and she must recognize and accept her gift for visionary insight. With the support of her family and their close friends, and with Carl Lee’s love, she is able to weather a crisis of faith and support Carl Lee in his own personal time of deep stress.

Strong Jackson

Strong Jackson, Abby’s father, a hardworking barber with additional skills as a draftsman and carpenter. He is the solid rock on whose strength the family and his community can depend. He is direct in speech, with a colloquial eloquence that is inspiring if a little daunting. He has survived economic distress and the racist tendencies of American society. At first, he is unaccountably angry when Abby begins to become friendly with Carl Lee, suggesting that he is overprotective and even a little jealous of Carl Lee’s...

(The entire section is 746 words.)