Palace of the Peacock, 1960

(Great Characters in Literature)

The Dreaming I

The Dreaming I, the narrator, a younger brother of Donne. He accompanies Donne on the quest and participates in the mystical experience that unites the dead and the living. He alone survives to tell the story.


Donne, an estate owner, the lifelong protector of the narrator. A brown-skinned man, he is the captain of the crew that is traveling into the mountains to get laborers for the estate he is building in the interior of Guyana. Donne is tough, decisive, and harsh. His brutality toward his mistress, Mariella, echoes his brutality toward all the natives, and the narrator’s initial dream or vision indicates that eventually Donne was or will be killed by the natives, or by Mariella as their representative.


Cameron, a member of the crew, whose red face and kinky hair indicate his mixed Scottish and African ancestry. Although he is quiet and long-suffering, he is frustrated because he has never been able to accumulate enough money to realize his dreams of landownership. In a quarrel, he is stabbed in the back by one of the Da Silva twins.


Schomburgh, a crew member of German and Amerindian background. Although he is in his fifties, he is agile and a good bowman. After the death of Carroll, his son, Schomburgh dies in his sleep.


Carroll, the youngest crew member and the son of...

(The entire section is 460 words.)

The Far Journey of Oudin, 1961

(Great Characters in Literature)


Oudin, a mysterious man with whose death the novel begins. A dark, childlike person, when plied with drink he becomes the slave of Ram, the moneylender, even his willing tool to the scheme to steal cattle from Mohammed. When Ram has him abduct Mohammed’s niece, however, Oudin keeps her for himself.


Beti, Oudin’s wife for thirteen years. Black-haired and once attractive, she is the daughter of Rajah, a poor man, and the niece of Mohammed. Even though Ram could have given her wealth, she prefers young Oudin and elopes with him. At his death, in an effort to cheat the moneylender, she eats the contract that her husband made with Ram.


Ram, the moneylender. A man who is loathed by everyone, he devotes his life to destroying Mohammed, with the help of Oudin. He is impotent and compensates for this with his acquisitiveness.


Mohammed, a landlord, the descendant of an Indian immigrant to Guyana. A tall, thin man, he is unscrupulous about making money but careless of his property. When he learns that his father has left an inheritance to an illegitimate child, Mohammed schemes to get rid of his half brother and to change the will. Eventually, he falls into the clutches of the moneylender.


Muhra, Mohammed’s wife. When, after a succession of daughters, she miscarries a male child, she is convinced that Mohammed’s evil deed has caused her misfortune.


Hassan, a brother of Mohammed. Round-faced and secretive, he works on his brother’s bus. He is the first of Mohammed’s brothers to die.


Kaiser, Mohammed’s twin brother. He is shorter and thinner than Mohammed, whom he envies and resents. He dies in a fire in the rum shop, which may, like Hassan’s death, be a working-out of the curse on the brothers for killing the heir.


Rajah, Mohammed’s cousin and Beti’s father. A poor man, always hungry, he is a compulsive thief. He is struck by lightning.

Mohammed’s father

Mohammed’s father, who came from India. He has a black face and a white beard. It is his changing of his will in favor of a mentally deficient, illegitimate son that leads to Mohammed’s evil deed.

The Whole Armour, 1962

(Great Characters in Literature)


Cristo, a fugitive. A twenty-one-year-old black man, he has a graceful, restless body and a devoted mother. He has returned to Guyana after completing his education and finds himself a stranger there. After killing his girlfriend’s lover, he takes refuge with Abram but then is suspected of killing his benefactor. When he returns to prove his innocence, he is ambushed, tried, and executed.


Magda, a prostitute. She is a strong black woman, roughly forty years old, whose eyes indicate her Chinese blood. Convinced that her son Cristo killed Abram, she urges him to flee and, in hopes of saving him, offers herself to a police sergeant so that the police will delay their search.


Abram, a half-caste old man who lives alone. When Cristo is with him, Abram dies of an apparent heart attack and later is savaged by a jaguar.


Sharon, Cristo’s girlfriend, who appears white but has black ancestors. A slender, attractive woman, she seems to attract both men and death. Because of her infidelity, Cristo kills her lover. Later, her fiancé is killed, her father hangs himself, and Cristo, the father of her child, is executed. Her confusion about her identity causes her to behave promiscuously.


Peet, Sharon’s father. A coconut farmer with dark, slanting eyes and a ragged beard and mustache, he is frequently drunk and violent. When he attacks Magda, she knocks him down, but when he starts a fight with Mattias Gomez, the outcome is tragic: Mattias falls on Peet’s knife. When Peet hangs himself, further suspicion descends on Cristo.

Mattias Gomez

Mattias Gomez, Sharon’s fiancé after Cristo goes into hiding. A man in his late twenties, he is pale-skinned and black-haired, of Portuguese and Syrian descent. Mattias is the bookkeeper for his father, a wealthy store owner. When the drunken Peet accuses him of seducing Sharon and starts a fight, Mattias accidentally falls on Peet’s knife and is killed.

The Secret Ladder, 1963

(Great Characters in Literature)

Russell Fenwick

Russell Fenwick, a government surveyor. A tall man of mixed African, English, and French blood, he took his job to help support his elderly mother. Because his kindness is interpreted as weakness, he causes rebellion in the crew and the natives.


Weng, Fenwick’s foreman. Of Chinese and Amerindian extraction, he is the best hunter in the group. He intimidates the crew and thus controls them.


Jordan, the cook and storekeeper. A large, baby-faced man, he is disliked for his stinginess. He warns Fenwick that his softness will lead to disaster.

Dominic Perez

Dominic Perez, an older member of the crew. A stocky Portuguese man, he dotes on his young wife and insists on having her with him. After her complaint to Fenwick gets him fired, he threatens to kill her.

Catalena Perez

Catalena Perez, the wife of Dominic. A big-breasted young woman with blue-black eyes and long lashes, she is regularly beaten by her husband, perhaps for her infidelity, perhaps simply because of his jealousy. When she is captured by the natives and stripped, she expects to be raped and murdered. She is saved by chance, however, and runs away with Bryant.


Bryant, a thin young African, a member of Fenwick’s crew. He feels a special kinship with Poseidon, whom he identifies with his own grandfather, and cannot forgive himself for the fact that the old man is killed when he falls after Bryant attacks him.


Poseidon, the old man who leads the natives in defying Fenwick and the government. A man with white, kinky hair and ragged clothes, he is the grandson of an escaped slave. His defiance is motivated by Jordan’s cheating him and by his perception of Fenwick’s character, as well as by fear of government intrusion. When, in a sudden burst of virility, he attempts to rape Catalena, he is knocked down by Bryant and dies.


Chiung, a Chinese crewman. A man in his forties or fifties, he is disliked by Weng, as well as by the natives, whom he cheats. After Fenwick loans him a raincoat and cap, Chiung is attacked by native assassins. When they realize that they have the wrong man and take the news to their camp, the natives abandon Catalena, and she is able to escape.


(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Cartey, Wilfred. Whispers from the Caribbean: I Going Away, I Going Home. Los Angeles: Center for Afro-American Studies, University of California, 1991. A detailed discussion of English-language Caribbean novels. Contains lengthy discussions of Wilson Harris, including analyses of all four novels in The Guyana Quartet.

Drake, Sandra E. Wilson Harris and the Modern Tradition: A New Architecture of the World. Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1986. A scholarly examination of four works by Harris, with a focus on his bold use of language, his literary precursors, his interest in the connections between different cultures, his belief in the possibility of an apprehension of truth and of knowledge, and his emphasis on the need to review the way the modern world views its own history.

Gilkes, Michael, ed. The Literate Imagination: Essays on the Novels of Wilson Harris. London: Macmillan, 1989. A collection of essays on various aspects of Harris’ work by leading authorities on the subject of Caribbean literature. Contains many references to The Guyana Quartet, a useful bibliography, and an essay by Harris himself.

Maes-Jelinek, Hena. Wilson Harris. Boston: Twayne, 1982. Maes-Jelinek, an authority on the literature of the Caribbean, considers Harris to be one of the most important writers of the twentieth century while admitting that he is also one of the most difficult to understand. This book attempts to explicate Harris’ writings and devotes separate chapters to each of the four novels in The Guyana Quartet.

Moore, Gerald. The Chosen Tongue: English Writing in the Tropical World. New York: Harper & Row, 1970. An excellent overview of literature written in English by nonwhite authors in Africa and the Caribbean region. Contains many references to Harris and his works. Useful for appreciating the ongoing interrelationship between Africa and the New World.