The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Characters in The Clansman are basically one-dimensional types. Austin Stoneman, as his last name suggests, is a man of stone, implacable in his dealing with the Confederacy. His views of blacks contravene the prevailing opinion, which is that the physical differences between blacks and whites make it impossible for the races to coexist as political and social equals. Stoneman believes that God made all men the same and that, given the opportunity, the blacks will acquire the necessary skills and will become as morally and politically upright as whites. Because of his views, he is depicted as a fanatic who, if unchecked, will destroy both the federal government and the Confederacy. Dr. Richard Cameron, on the other hand, is depicted as the ideal southern aristocrat who, observing the deplorable conditions of state government under the black administrations, takes on the mantle of senior statesman and protector; however, he is one of the leading figures in the Ku Klux Klan. Ben, his son, is suave, courageous, and courteous, the ideal gentleman who is ever mindful of southern white ladies. At night, he becomes the Grand Dragon of the Klan, attacking blacks who refuse to acquiesce to the demands of whites. It is Ben and his father, Dr. Cameron, who are responsible for the death of Gus. Philip Stoneman, unlike his father, becomes an industrialist, starting a milling business and helping to bring economic prosperity to the South. The female characters, with the...

(The entire section is 533 words.)