The Characters

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

As a satirist, Thurman has some help in his creation of characters, for many of them follow closely the known traits of their real counterparts. This is especially true in his depiction of major players of the Harlem Renaissance who are only minor characters in Infants of the Spring. During the scene in which Dr. Parkes presides over his “distinguished salon,” numerous artists are presented, and each conveys a sense of the person on which he or she is modeled.

Sweetie May Carr (Zora Neale Hurston) is a short-story writer who, the narrator records, is known more for her outrageous and ribald behavior than for any significant literary production. She is depicted as acting in the manner preferred by her patrons—she is primitive and agreeable, and she tells earthy “darky” stories as a way to dupe her patrons out of money.

Tony Crews (Langston Hughes) is already a standout of the movement, having had two volumes of poetry published. White critics loved his work. Most black critics did not, because of his honest treatment of black urban life that included such subject matter as gambling, prostitution, and rent parties. He is quiet, always smiles, and maintains a sense of mystery.

DeWitt Clinton (Countée Cullen), already praised by the older black leaders of the Harlem Renaissance as the poet to emulate, basically took black themes and used traditional Romantic poetic forms to express them. When he arrives at the salon, he is accompanied by his ever-faithful male companion.

The major characters of the novel demonstrate Thurman’s ability, within satire, to create original fictional people. Most are highly individualized. Some, including Paul, had never appeared in African American literature before this novel.

Raymond, as the novel’s protagonist and central consciousness, is the most fully...

(The entire section is 763 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Raymond Taylor

Raymond Taylor, the protagonist, a young black writer striving to create his first novel and make a major contribution to the “Negro Renaissance.” He is sensitive and a bit unsure of both his abilities as a writer and his sexual orientation. He is equally frustrated by his and others’ inability to create anything of greatness. For most of his stay at “Niggeratti Manor,” the Harlem brownstone where many would-be artists live, he drinks and carouses with friends—some talented, others not—so that he rarely writes.

Paul Arbian

Paul Arbian, a writer and painter. He is one of the most daring characters in the novel. He openly acknowledges his bisexuality and his distaste for what the older generation of leaders of the “Negro Renaissance” expect the younger artists to produce. Like Raymond, he wants to be an artist in the most free and forward-looking definition of the term.

Stephen Jorgenson

Stephen Jorgenson, for a short while a resident of the Manor and roommate to Raymond. He is first fascinated with Harlem’s black people and then, later, appalled by them. Originally from Copenhagen, Denmark, he is in New York to pursue a Ph.D. at Columbia University, not because he has any real interest in scholarship but because his family will support him only if he is in school.

Samuel Carter

Samuel Carter, another white character, a...

(The entire section is 493 words.)