Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Adah (AH-duh), the protagonist. A young Nigerian sociology student, she is a mother with middle-class aspirations who is separated from her husband and must rear her five small children, the oldest of whom is eight years old. A talented, qualified young woman, Adah is caught in the machinery of the British welfare state and is inexorably pauperized and humiliated.

The landlord

The landlord, a mean-spirited and hostile man. Like Adah, he and his wife are Nigerians, but of the Yoruba tribe. A council tenant himself, he illegally sublets a squalid room in his council flat to Adah and her five children, informing the council that Adah is a relative and only a guest. He exploits Adah by charging her double rent because he wants to make money from his flat to pay for his studies. He also terrorizes her and her children with his daily “juju” escapades.

Mrs. Devlin

Mrs. Devlin, a kindly Irish woman who lives above the landlord’s flat. A mother of two sons, she looks out for Adah and speaks out against the landlord’s and the council’s exploitation of Adah’s desperation.


Whoopey, a mama’s girl of feckless optimism. The lonely, dependent single mother of two children has lived with her mother, Mrs. Cox, and sister at the Pussy Cat Mansions all her life. Despite her dependence and her love of alcohol and bars,...

(The entire section is 544 words.)