The central character, Bob Jones, is an educated black man who seeks success in a cruel, unjust, racist world, a world that defines him as a “nigger.” Bob is an idealist trapped in a world that negates idealism. In his pursuit of the American Dream, he learns that black men are blocked from every direction and that his visions of success can be achieved only if he accepts himself as defined by society, a nigger. Refusing to accept that identity, Bob strikes back and is progressively destroyed. Yet at the same time, pressures force him to respond by acting in the way society expects. Bob becomes violent, an act of self-assertion that, for him, is the only way he can regain a sense of manhood. For his violence, he is defeated at every step. Bob Jones’s difficulty rests in his unexplainable desire for Madge, one mingled with hatred and repulsion, and in his ambivalence toward his own race. His terror stems from his powerlessness, his inability to find an appropriate stance from which to fight. Thus Bob is trapped, in part, by his own weakness. The redeeming feature and one that makes him a memorable character is his anger. Poised and generally self-confident, Bob willingly moves into battle; although the pressures are deadly, he remains resilient. He is forced to enlist in the army; although the American Dream excludes him, the concluding sentence affirms his strength: “I’m still here.”
Alice Harrison, Bob’s fiancé, is beautiful, wealthy, and highly respected in her career, but she is a victim....
(The entire section is 622 words.)