Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 586


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Makak, “an old Negro,” the hermit of Monkey Mountain. Sixty years old and ugly, he was named for the macaque monkey, which he resembles. He is by trade a wood-gatherer and charcoal burner, but in his dream he is also the king of Africa, following the instructions of an apparition of a beautiful white woman. Partly mad, partly possessed, and partly drunk, he possibly dreams the entire play in Lestrade’s cell, after a night of drunkenness in a local tavern. He is arrested for stealing coal and for disorderly conduct. In an elaborate allegorical configuration, he is the Christ figure at the beginning of his public life, performing miracles, collecting followers, and leaving behind exaggerated stories of his wonders, both betrayed and believed, as the Lion of Africa who will lead his black brethren back to Africa, but only after killing their “whiteness.” He experiences a sort of apotheosis when he kills the “white” woman who haunted him into this religious and political mission.

Corporal Lestrade

Corporal Lestrade, a mulatto guard of the town jail, “doing the white man’s work” in jailing and questioning Makak but finally “confessing” to his blackness in the final apotheosis. At first cruel in the use of his power, he forces the villagers into hypocritically agreeing to his absurd statements and pursues Makak to “hunt” him like an animal. The name of his rank suggests his allegorical function as the body of Christ/Makak. Stabbed and left for dead during the breakout, he follows Makak into the mountains, delirious from his wounds’ gangrenous infection, and is converted to the African “faith” of Makak. In the epilogue, he is a merciful jailer who frees Makak, releasing him to the care of Moustique.


Moustique, a friend to Makak and a partner in the charcoal business. He is a black man who walks with a limp from “a twist foot God give me.” An allegorical composite of all the disciples, he was found drunk by Makak and saved from dissolution. Nonreligious and money-conscious, he disguises himself as Makak to exploit the people but is discovered and killed by the angry mob. At the apotheosis of Makak, he returns from the dead to be judged and to die again. In the epilogue, he remains a true friend to Makak after he awakes from his dream in the cell, leading him away, back to his mountain.


Tigre, a young black thief in jail when Makak is arrested. He breaks out of jail and follows Makak to Monkey Mountain, ostensibly to follow Makak to Africa but actually to steal his money. When he tries to force Makak to lead him to the money, the corporal kills him with a lance. He represents the thief who was damned in the allegorical parallel.


Souris, “the rat,” another black thief. He is a partner in Tigre’s breakout and equally eager to get Makak’s money. Later, he is converted to Makak’s African Zionism. He represents the thief who was saved.


Basil, a young man, not only a carpenter but also a charcoal seller, and thus an alter ego of Makak. He is a figure of doom and enlightenment who appears mysteriously from time to time, a nemesis and judge for all the characters.

The Apparition

The Apparition, a beautiful white woman, “like the moon.” She entices Makak into his religious proselytizing and is beheaded as a sacrifice at the apotheosis of Makak. She represents the “Roman law” of white Western history.


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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1143

Basil is a black man (or perhaps apparition) who appears when death is imminent for someone in the scene. Wearing a dark coat and hat, he is described by some as a cabinetmaker. Basil also plays a constant role in Makak's journey after he reaches Monkey Mountain. He compels...

(The entire section contains 1729 words.)

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Critical Essays