The Characters

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Rex “Fishbelly” Tucker is a character whose personality is developed according to the rules both of naturalism and of psychoanalysis. His early life is revealed through a series of episodes that focus on significant moments of what Sigmund Freud called “infantile experience”; these episodes are then shown as having significant effects on his later life. In one example, Fishbelly finds a discarded condom in a vacant lot, and he and his friends naturally turn it into a plaything. They are then told by an older neighbor, Chris Sims, that the thing is dirty and that they should not be seen with it. The boys are shocked to hear from Chris the purpose of the thing and to find out where it had been. This experience has a significant effect on the development of sexual attitudes in each of the young men. When Chris is later lynched for having been found in a hotel room with a white woman, Fishbelly’s attraction to and repulsion from sexual behavior become even more pronounced.

Tyree Tucker, Fishbelly’s father, also contributes to young Fishbelly’s anxiety. Tyree is perhaps the most complex character in the novel; he reveals depth of character unexpected in a seemingly conformist resident of Clintonville’s Black Belt. Tyree leads a double life. By day, he is the most respected black undertaker in town; at night he oversees a variety of operations, from slum housing to brothels to juke joints. Wright portrays his character objectively in the first...

(The entire section is 571 words.)

The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Most of the characters in The Long Dream are overshadowed by Fishbelly and his father, Tyree Tucker. Fishbelly’s story, like that of most protagonists in a Bildungsroman or in an Entwicklungsroman, concerns loss of innocence. A black child from a prosperous family in a small town in the Deep South, however, endures more than a typical child does in coming of age. Fishbelly has the identity crises and the sexual adventures of any adolescent, but superimposed upon them is his coming to realize what it means to be a second-class citizen, a person who enjoys neither the opportunities nor the basic protections afforded white citizens. Fishbelly’s illusions are chipped away steadily as he comes to realize that white human beings are capable of castrating and murdering black human beings and that their society will protect them from retribution for having committed such acts. Even after Fishbelly sees Chris Sims’s mutilated corpse in his father’s embalming room, the boy has some illusions left. His father, after all, is a prosperous and successful businessman. He presumably has some standing in his own community.

Fishbelly comes to see Tyree’s real standing in the community, however, when his rather humiliates himself in order to reclaim the boy after his arrest. Simultaneously, Fishbelly realizes how the terror of physical mutilation, of castration, has turned him into a coward. In this scene, Fishbelly begins to see himself...

(The entire section is 501 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Rex “Fishbelly” Tucker

Rex “Fishbelly” Tucker, a young black man, the central character. When the story opens, Fish is five years old, the only son of Tyree Tucker, the leading black person in Clintonville, Mississippi, which has a population of ten thousand blacks and fifteen thousand whites. Fish comes to understand that he lives in a twisted society that makes it wrong to be black. At about the age of six, he spits at his image in the mirror and exclaims, “nigger.” At the age of twelve, he is initiated into manhood when an older friend is brutally beaten, castrated, and lynched because of his involvement with a white woman. Fish’s father, an undertaker, and Dr. Bruce, the town’s black physician, keep Fish with them as they examine the mutilated young man’s body. At the age of sixteen, Fish joins Tyree in business and watches as his father is dragged into conflict with the white power structure and is killed. Fish has information that threatens these same whites and is jailed for two years. As the book ends, he is on an airplane to Paris to join a black friend.

Tyree Tucker

Tyree Tucker, Fish’s father, an undertaker who owns rental property, including brothels and a bar. Tyree is the power broker between the black community and the local white establishment. When his sympathetic but uncomprehending white lawyer refers to Tyree as corrupt, the black man explodes with anger, saying that such words do not apply to black-white relations: He does what whites make him do if he wants to protect his family and provide a good life for them. His life presents a puzzle to Fish. Tyree looks down on the...

(The entire section is 680 words.)