Meshach Barry is a complex character who acknowledges to his audience that he is perhaps not the most reliable of narrators. By describing his feelings of guilt toward his daughter and by referring to himself as a hypocrite, a preacher who loves to stand in the pulpit and give sermons but who does not actually believe in God, Meshach makes it clear that he is not to be considered a noble or even a likable character. By establishing his own actions as negative, Meshach focuses positive attention on Cager, whom he calls the hero of his story. By introducing himself as an unreliable, biased storyteller, Meshach suggests that everything in his narrative, including Cager’s goodness, is questionable.
Cager Lee’s faith in African Americans’ need and ability to control their own destiny, coupled with his single-minded determination to help his people regardless of the cost to himself, clearly establishes him as a foil for the ambivalent Meshach. Cager is a martyred saint, a visionary secular prophet who believes that the ends justify the means. Cager’s intense conviction in the necessity of black self-determination is offset, however, by his naïveté. He is unable to distinguish between the militant rhetoric of The Chicago Hawk and factual reporting, and he is crushed when Haley Barnes informs him that Chicago is no mecca for African Americans. Although his determination is admirable, Cager’s childish simplicity, as pointed out by Barnes, makes him another questionable character.
After Cager goes to work for Mrs. Dabney, several people,...
(The entire section is 643 words.)