In Java Head, by using limited omniscience, the author explores the viewpoints of nine different characters, some of them major, others primarily observers.
Jeremy Ammidon is one of the most fully realized characters. He is a man of principle, as proven by his opposition to the opium trade, but he has unwisely given over the conduct of the business to his son William and his son-in-law. Jeremy is too plainspoken for Salem, which thrives on indirection and subterfuge. Jeremy’s outspokenness alienates his old friend Barzil Dunsack and drives William to conceal the firm’s activities from his father in order to avoid confrontations.
Gerrit Ammidon is also happier at sea than on land. However, though Gerrit calls himself a simple man, he has a habit of introspection. He knows that what he feels for Taou Yuen is primarily admiration and that he is drawn to Nettie because she seems to need him more than his wife does. However, Gerrit is blind to Taou Yuen’s love for him and to Edward’s designs upon her. His hasty marriage to Nettie suggests that he does not understand how much his neglect and infidelity contributed to Taou Yuen’s tragic end.
Taou Yuen is a somewhat shadowy figure, defined primarily by such externals as her clothing, her cosmetics, and her religious practices, which reflect her adherence to tradition. Unfortunately, she is so self-disciplined that she cannot confide in Gerrit and so uncompromising that...
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