The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Peter Roche has in his own way been a “guerrilla,” a white man who has written a book about his torture and imprisonment by the South African government; he now sees himself, however, as a man without a function who undermines himself daily. His involvement with Jimmy’s idea of a revolution based on land, a fantasy agricultural commune, is exposed by the end of the novel to be as ephemeral as his relationship with Jane. The irony of his present job as a public relations officer for Sablich, a firm that was once involved with the slave trade, suggests the discrepancy between the ideals of his autobiography and the reality of his daily life. Chapter 13, in which Meredith interviews Roche, is the crucial chapter in this respect, revealing the emptiness beneath Roche’s illusions of himself as a revolutionary on the side of the local blacks. In fact, as the interview suggests and as Roche has earlier admitted to Jane, the driving force in his personality has not been the revolutionary’s desire to subvert the establishment but rather the need of the colonial personality to identify with the oppressor rather than the oppressed. In admitting his acceptance of authority, Roche blames the educational system that subjected him to a kind of humiliation that conditions colonizers to revere order, power, and the group, and to fear the alien Other.

Jane, the white upper-middle-class woman educated on fantasies of class, power, and race, is compelled to face...

(The entire section is 565 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

James (Jimmy Ahmed) Leung

James Jimmy Ahmed) Leung, a half-Chinese leader of a black power agricultural commune. Physically neat and compact, with a magnetic personality, he was a celebrated black activist in England, deported for rape and indecent assault. Feeling himself loveless, rejected, and lost, he dreams of being seen as a famous and controversial savior of the common people. Bisexual, with a confusion of passions, hates, and paranoid delusions, he has a philosophy and program that are both ill-formed and clothed in empty rhetoric; he is, nevertheless, a threat to the island establishment, which attempts to placate him with token support. After the police kill a former follower, he attempts to lead a popular uprising, which is put down by the authorities. Having constructed an impressive but bogus public persona, he takes refuge in a pathological fantasy life that, when it spills over into reality, results in destruction, rape, and murder.

Peter Roche

Peter Roche, a white South African doing public relations work for an old island company once engaged in the slave trade. Arrested, tortured, tried, and imprisoned in South Africa as a pro-black saboteur, he has published an autobiography. That book results in notice of him and a death threat in England, as well as bringing him a mistress (Jane), a job, and an ambivalent reception on the island. A small, ordinary looking, sad-faced man of forty-five, a rootless refugee who has lost the idealistic vision and optimism that prompted his earlier actions, he finds himself passive and without function. Willing to make compromises on many levels, he tries to support the commune despite his awareness of...

(The entire section is 697 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Except for Peter Roche, who represses his own self-knowledge, the major characters in Guerrillas are self-deceived and ignorant of...

(The entire section is 272 words.)