Characters Discussed

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Last Updated on May 6, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 939


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Sarah, also referred to as Negro, a student and poet who has retreated to the room that contains her treasures. She is a pale black woman who wants either to deny her black heritage or to die. Wearing black clothes and an executioner’s rope, Sarah has masses of frizzy hair, one clump of which she carries with her, but only blood for facial features. She verbalizes the internal conflict between her ancestries as a trap from which she cannot extricate herself despite surrounding herself with white friends to guard against recognition of her black birthright. Sarah sees her father as God but cannot reconcile his rape of her with her image of him as Christ and believes that she split her father’s head with the ebony mask. Sarah’s “funnyhouse” is the only safe place she knows, and her “selves” are the only ones with whom she interacts lovingly, but they are deceptions. Finally, her father overcomes her, and Sarah is found hanging in her room.

Patrice Lumumba

Patrice Lumumba, also called Man and Wally, one of Sarah’s selves. He sees himself not as the murdered savior of the black race but as a now-crucified Judas who has betrayed mother, wife, and child. A large black man with a shattered head, Lumumba has no identifiable face; the area of his face is covered by blood and skull fragments. He carries an ebony mask. Like Sarah, Patrice Lumumba wants to barricade himself with friends and externals against his black heritage. He is Sarah’s father, who raped her mother because she would not voluntarily consummate the marriage. Lumumba, although in conflict between his guilt and fear and his need to fulfill his mother’s expectations of him as a savior, pleads with Sarah to accept him and to help him save their race. Sarah’s escape to her mother exacerbates the denial of her African ancestry. Sarah’s father has died violently but continues to return. He appears to embody the part of Sarah that relates to the time she spent with her family in Africa.

Duchess of Hapsburg

Duchess of Hapsburg, one of Sarah’s selves, mirrored by both Victoria Regina and Jesus. She empathizes with Sarah’s fear and challenges the father’s right to return. The duchess reinforces Sarah’s belief in her room as a safe place. Concealed behind an alabaster facial mask, she carries a red paper bag of her kinky hair and futilely attempts to return it to her head while simultaneously reflecting Sarah’s need for Raymond to hide her so that she can escape the suffering of her father’s world. Failing to resolve the conflict, the duchess, hanging from a chandelier and decapitated, is discovered by an impotent Jesus. She is the female embodiment of white European tradition.

Queen Victoria Regina

Queen Victoria Regina, one of Sarah’s selves, who denies her place in the black world she believes to be evil. In facial appearance, she is a twin to the duchess. Queen Victoria is dressed in a royal but poor-quality white satin gown. The queen is interested in the motivations behind events. With understanding, she unmasks pieces of Sarah’s essence for the duchess and for Sarah herself. Ultimately powerless, Victoria Regina represents the repulsiveness of a white-distorted reality, and she witnesses Sarah’s death.


Raymond, the Funnyhouse Man, a tall, anorexic-looking Jewish poet dressed in black. He initially displays a dispassionate attitude toward Sarah, whom he sees as a sadistic, suffering liar. He opens and closes the blinds in Sarah’s bedroom just as he opens and closes insights into her life. Raymond first states that her father shot himself but contradicts himself after Sarah’s suicide with the statement that Sarah’s father is “married to a white whore” and living as Sarah’s selves have fantasized. Raymond has the insane laugh of a funnyhouse...

(The entire section contains 1546 words.)

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Critical Essays