Caliban's Filibuster Characters

Paul West

The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Cal is clearly a deeply troubled man who desperately tries to hold on to his patience and sanity by distancing himself from his life like a filmgoer and by projecting in his scenarios versions of the self he would like to be. In many ways, like his Shakespearean namesake from The Tempest, Caliban, he is a primitive, hateful creature who wants to take revenge on others for what he sees as the unjust waste of his talent. Thus, he creates the scenarios as ways of visiting his wrath on McAndrew and Zeuss. Like his namesake, he curses those who he believes control him and dreams of a freedom that is never truly his.

Nevertheless, Cal struggles with his frustrations and limitations, and through his struggles the reader comes to a grudging acceptance of him and his dilemma. At the time of the novel’s publication, some reviewers argued that Cal’s three tales amount to the masterpieces of his life, master works that are destroyed when he crosses the International Date Line and which are thus lost on the very day of their creator’s greatest artistic triumph. Nevertheless, for all of their passion, these scenarios are hardly major works. Instead, they are a filibuster (as the novel’s title suggests) against those forces to which Cal cannot entirely capitulate.

One must admire a consciousness so determined to announce its individuality: Cal is filibustering not only against the pernicious influences of Zeuss’s debased art but also, more...

(The entire section is 596 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Cal, a frustrated novelist working as a hack writer. He has contracted to script a television movie titledGeisha from Venus, due to begin production in Japan. At an all-time personal low, he undergoes a tortuous psychological exercise in which he creates a nonstop drama in his head employing his traveling companions as actors in a bizarre trio of scenarios. His “filibuster” is an attempt to repress the actual events of his flight from California to Japan and to vent his growing despair over the direction in which his career is moving. He periodically threatens to quit his job but never carries through on the impulse.

Sammy Zuess

Sammy Zuess, a film producer and Cal’s employer. He is self-indulgent, overweight, arrogant, and an acquirer of great material wealth. He speaks in a strange accent and appears in Cal’s filibuster as a merciless godlike figure.

Murray McAndrew

Murray McAndrew, an actor starring in Zuess’s film. Although doomed to hopeless mediocrity, he is vain and self-centered. He appears in various roles in Cal’s musings.

P. D. Malchios

P. D. Malchios,







Mc Call

Mc Call,

Dr. Greenfell

Dr. Greenfell,








Yakamoto, and


Kamiko, productions of Cal’s imagination who are introduced and disappear with little explanation or description. These minor characters serve to facilitate the psychological ramblings of a frustrated man, which substitute in the novel for any traditional sense of plot.