Hopkins has made excellent use of the social and historical climate of her day in delineating her characters. In her effort to portray the “contending forces” (“conservatism, lack of brotherly affiliation, lack of energy for the right and the power of the almighty dollar”) that pull African Americans away from their focus on bettering the situation of their people, Hopkins has created characters that are rooted in history and developed by her imagination.
Two of her major characters are based on two of the most famous African Americans of the period, W. E. B. Du Bois and Booker T. Washington. Like Du Bois, Will Smith is a highly educated and respected philosopher whose lifetime dedication is to helping his people achieve intellectual equality with whites. He is outspoken and forthright and does not hesitate to get involved in philosophical debates with his brother-in-law, Arthur Lewis, who is modeled on Washington. Like Washington, Lewis is the president of an agricultural and technical school in the South, and he hopes to better the situation of his people by providing them with practical education. Through the dialogue between the two men, Hopkins illustrates the importance of both philosophies of education; she portrays them as complementing rather than confronting each other. She demonstrates through her characters’ dialogue that the farsighted views of Smith would not have had a chance for implementation in the Deep South of the late nineteenth century....
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