Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Clive, a British administrator stationed in Africa. A stereotypical Victorian, Clive constantly cites his duty to God, the British Empire, the queen, and his family as motivation for his behavior. Like the other characters, Clive is a caricature who is both humorous and a painful reminder of social problems. As a Victorian colonialist, he is narrow-minded, hypocritical, and blind to the injustice done to the native Africans on whom his comfort depends. He continues to dominate his family and the natives only with difficulty, however, and act 1 ends with Clive’s son watching silently as the faithful native servant raises a rifle to shoot Clive. Apparently Clive is not killed, however, because he reappears briefly at the end of act 2 to lament the fall of the British Empire. Clive’s Victorian system of colonial repression parallels the system of sexual repression in the 1970’s of act 2.


Betty, Clive’s wife. In act 1, Betty “is played by a man because she wants to be what men want her to be.” She identifies her duty as waiting patiently for Clive and the other men to order and control the world. In act 2, Betty, who has left Clive, is played by a woman, because she is coming to know herself better. At the play’s close, Betty from act 1 reappears and the two Bettys embrace, indicating how far Betty has come in achieving wholeness and promising a world of reconciliation.


Joshua, Clive’s black servant, “played by a white man because he wants to be what whites want him to be.” Joshua separates himself from other natives and serves as Clive’s spy. An unspoken pact with Clive permits Joshua the minor rebellion of impertinence to Betty, as long as he remains absolutely subservient to Clive. His raising of the rifle against Clive at the end of act 1 suggests a native effort to break free of British imperialism.


Edward, Clive’s nine-year-old son, played in act 1 by a woman to highlight Clive’s effort “to impose...

(The entire section is 844 words.)


(Drama for Students)

Harry Bagley
Harry Bagley is an explorer and a friend of Clive. Clive regards him as an eccentric—a bit of a poet as well as a...

(The entire section is 1155 words.)