Hazel is the main character of ‘‘Gorilla, My Love,’’ and its first-person narrator. She is an African American girl of about ten or twelve years old, and lives in Harlem, in New York City, with a close, extended family. Riding in the car with her grandfather, uncle and little brother in the story’s first scene, she learns that her uncle, called Hunca Bubba, is in love and plans to be married. This angers Hazel, and reminds her of an Easter Sunday when she and her brothers went to the movies.
By her own account, half of the fun of attending movies is throwing popcorn, making noises, and leading the other children in causing disruptions. They all know how much noise they can make, how far they can push the theater matrons before they get into real trouble, and they enjoy seeing the matrons angry. On the Easter Sunday in question, although the theater was advertising a film called Gorilla, My Love, it actually showed a religious picture, King of Kings, and an old Bugs Bunny cartoon. Hazel stirs the children in the crowd to protest loudly, and marches into the manager’s office to demand her money back. When he refuses, she steals a book of matches and lights a fire in the lobby, shutting down the theater for a week. Somehow, Hazel is so fierce in her indignation, and her voice is so strong and feisty, that she seems tough and likeable at the same time. The reader is on her side. Hazel has been raised to speak her mind, and she does. She avoids a whipping from her father by speaking up and explaining that the adults had made a promise—that they would show Gorilla, My Love—and broken it. Hazel’s rebellion, in her eyes, was a blow for the virtue of keeping one’s word. Her father, seeing Hazel’s point, puts away his belt.
Now, in the car with Hunca Bubba, Hazel feels again that adults simply cannot be trusted where children are concerned. She reminds her uncle that, years before, he had promised to marry her when she was old enough. Hunca Bubba laughs and says that he had been teasing, but this only confirms for Hazel that adults, including her favorite uncle, will lie to children whenever they want to, ‘‘And don’t even say they sorry.’’
Jefferson Winston Vale
Jefferson Winston Vale, or Hunca Bubba, is Hazel’s favorite Uncle. He has been called ‘‘Hunca Bubba’’ by everyone in the family ever since Hazel was a toddler and unable to pronounce ‘‘Uncle,’’ and he has been a constant and adored presence in her life. Years before the story takes place, Hunca Bubba took care of Hazel for two days while her parents were away. Affectionately, he told her she was cute, and that he would marry her one day. Although he promptly forgot this routine pleasantry,...
(The entire section is 1120 words.)