The identification of Evan as a character at a crossroads in his life is emphasized by the fact that he encounters a confluence of external forces. Evan’s passivity, indecisiveness, and erratic judgment are brought home to him by his headaches, paranoid imaginings, and profound sense of cultural dislocation. These sufferings are not merely the fabrications of Evan’s own distressed state of mind. They have their sources and their power in the ways in which he is perceived by the characters who come into close contact with him.
This quartet of characters consists of two Senegalese, Aminata and Lamont, and two Americans, Africa and Wanda. They establish the terms of the conflict that besets Evan, although to see the novel strictly in terms of the framework they provide is too schematic. The author is sufficiently attentive to the texture of the world he is creating to ensure that the scaffolding of imaginative logic that these four characters support is adequately concealed. In addition, many of the minor characters, both Senegalese and American, make distinctive contributions to the novel’s overall effects, even if the value of this contribution derives from the manner in which it augments the central issue of Evan’s psychological and cultural travail.
The combination of Aminata and Lamont represents, at different but interrelated levels, the seductive power of Senegal. Their sleek appearance, the supple manner in which their minds work, and their ability to negotiate Anglophone and Eurocentric mind-sets while retaining an alert sense of their native culture give their presence a potency that Evan finds irresistible. Evan’s attraction to this formidable couple is the very thing that undoes him. Aminata’s curative and restorative powers, together with Evan’s strongly developed sense of her sexuality, provide him with a viable and willed attachment to his foreign surroundings. It is largely as a result of Aminata’s intervention that...
(The entire section is 806 words.)