Last Updated on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 383
There are three main characters in Dreamer by Charles Johnson. The plot of the book focuses on the life and death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but in the fictional story there is interwoven a subplot about a double who learns about the goodness of King through listening to him and experiencing what it is to be like him.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. is one of the central characters of the text. He is presented as a nearly-perfect character; most of his accomplishments are shown in the book, and very little of his personal failings or extra-marital affairs are even mentioned.
King sees the value of his double, Chyam Smith, as a stand-in to be used at events that can protect him. Through the eyes of the narrator, Matthew Bishop, King is built up to be a giant, both ideologically and sentimentally. The death of King is something that rocked the world, and his death in the book does the same.
Matthew Bishop is the narrator of the book. Many of the insights and observations come directly from his skewed viewpoint, but often, his narration doesn't live up to the collective memory of society. Bishop is in awe of King, and much of his description of what goes on is through rose-colored glasses.
The reason we get such a sweet and perfect view of King in the story is because of Bishop's admiration (Although Bishop does ask questions about why King is considered so significant when other less-known people are not, despite their actions and sacrifice). Bishop is central to nearly everything that goes on in the story.
Chyam Smith is the most essential fictional element in the story. Bishop tells us that Chaym, the name, is a play off of "Cain." Chyam, despite looking nearly identical to King, is almost his polar opposite. He is rough around the edges, doesn't have the same privilege or background, and is presented as not believing in the same principles or ideas that King subscribes to in the novel. Chaym is primarily meant to reflect everything that King is not.
However, through hearing King speak and experiencing getting shot in King's place, Chaym has a transformation and begins to understand the importance of the movement.