The only fully developed character is Cecil, and even the picture of him is fragmented. What one can say directly of him is that he is a very intelligent and sensitive young African American who is troubled by his situation in a racist culture and haunted by the death of Simon. What readers do not know is why, four years after receiving his law degree and a year and a half after returning to his wife, Esther, he is still working as a janitor at the Banbury Street Arms when the novel opens.
Several things are bothering him on November 14, 1968, when his story begins. November is a month that always brings him bad news: He is now plagued by hemorrhoids; his dead son, Simon, had been conceived in November; and Esther’s Aunt Fanny had come to live with them in November. There is no clue about what has happened to Cecil in the eighteen months since his return from his European exile. Certainly a man with a prestigious law degree would be expected to have a better job than one as janitor at the Banbury Street Arms. There are no clues to this mystery, and readers are left with a sense that Cecil has become an invisible man because of his skin color.
When Cecil first appears, he is collecting trash in the Banbury Street Arms: “Five floors, fifteen apartments each left their bundles on the back stairs for Cecil to carry away.” He picks up an empty Carnation evaporated milk can, crushes it in his hand, and drops it five floors to the basement. The...
(The entire section is 548 words.)