Jake is a frustrated member of the black lower-middle class who has become a bigot and a domestic tyrant. Jake is a living stereotype and a negative reflection of white, working-class prejudices. A stock character who does not develop, Jake has not learned either to deal with the limitations of his world or to imagine an alternative.
When his ambition is frustrated in his dull, dead-end job, Jake puts his faith in unrealistic ways to change his life such as get-rich-quick schemes and gambling. He sees Lil as one of the forces arrayed against his success, and he feels that he must dominate her in order to affirm his own value. Disappointed with his family life, he seeks male companionship, excitement in drinking, and sexual satisfaction from prostitutes. The closest Jake comes to self-affirmation is the drunken realization that, even though he has been beaten and robbed, at least he has no one to blame for his troubles but himself. Stumbling home from “Rats’ Alley,” Jake yells, “BUT WHEN I WAS FLYING I WAS A FLYING FOOL!”
Lil Jackson is an embattled housewife, terrorized and dominated by her husband, who must fight for dignity and financial support. Having previously been fooled by Jake into having an unnecessary abortion that has left her with a tumor requiring repeated treatments and operations, Lil must rely on him to pay her recurring doctor bills. When she is not trying to get money for medical and household expenses, threatening...
(The entire section is 554 words.)