The Characters

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

In the Castle of My Skin is a very oddly structured novel. Its alternation of first-and third-person narrators seems undisciplined (the author was, after all, only twenty-three years old when he began writing it) but is, in fact, a bold and considered device for conveying a sense of the village’s communal identity while simultaneously narrating G.’s coming-of-age and his eventual, inevitable emigration. Lamming, using the first-person narrator, the ostensible protagonist, as his surrogate, intends the same effect in this novel as in his collection of autobiographical literary essays The Pleasures of Exile (1960). Critic Sandra Pouchet Paquet’s remark about The Pleasures of Exile could be said with equal justice about In the Castle of My Skin: “Autobiographical values are determined by the narrator’s acute and pervasive sense of participating in a great historical moment. His valuable life surrenders its meaning in a gesture of collectivity.”

In the novel, then, as in the book of essays, the unusual, unexpected main character is the community at large. This fact establishes Lamming’s political and social values and sympathies. The tragedy of the land sale near the novel’s end is the community’s communal tragedy. At the same time, the individual protagonist, the first-person narrator G., is separating himself from the community by emigrating to Trinidad. Although he does not yet know it as he prepares to...

(The entire section is 492 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


G., a young Barbadian boy who is the narrator and protagonist. He is eight years old at the opening of the novel, which spans the subsequent nine years of his life. He tells the story of his childhood, which was spent in a small village (the fictitious Creighton’s Village) in Barbados, where he attends the local school with his friends. Unlike his friends, he wins a scholarship to go to high school. After he has been graduated from high school, he goes to Trinidad to become a teacher in a small school for Venezuelan and other South American students. The novel ends on the eve of his departure to Trinidad. G. is a sensitive and imaginative child whose developing consciousness also records an important part of the history of Creighton’s Village and Barbados.

G.’s mother

G.’s mother, portrayed by G. as a person who is as capable of laughter as she is of wielding a whip to “roast his tail.” She is a capable woman who rears her son single-handedly and works hard to give him his education.


Pa, the father figure of the village. He is the repository of village history and is revered by all the villagers. He apparently earned some money in his youth in Panama, but in the novel he is quite poor. He sells his house after his wife’s death and, at the end of the novel, is preparing to move into the Alms House, knowing well that he does not have much longer to live.


Ma, his wife. She is described as balding and wearing a white cloth on her head. She is an intuitive person who is filled with foreboding at the future of Creighton’s Village. Significantly, she dies at the end of the riots.

Mr. Creighton

Mr. Creighton, the landlord who owns the village. During the course of the novel, he loses his authority to Mr. Slime. Mr. Creighton figures...

(The entire section is 775 words.)