The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Growing up in Miguel Street, the narrator learns to respect people whom outsiders might lump together as ignorant slum-dwellers. He comments, “we who lived there saw our street as a world, where everybody was quite different from everybody else. Man-man was mad; George was stupid; Big Foot was a bully; Hat was an adventurer; Popo was a philosopher; and Morgan was our comedian.” Naipaul reveals his characters by accurate recording of dialogue and through the narrator’s ongoing reporting of gossip, facts, and his impressions as well as those of others. In the beginning of “The Pyrotechnicist,” for example, the narrator contrasts the Street’s assessment of Morgan as “our comedian” with his own later understanding of Morgan’s personality. Then, Naipaul’s narrator sums up Morgan as “the sort of man who, having once created a laugh by sticking the match in his mouth and trying to light it with his cigarette . . . does it over and over again” and concludes by quoting Hat’s comment that Morgan is “not so happy at all.” Thus, in a sense, Naipaul circles his characters, viewing them from various perspectives, including the perspective of the adult narrator as he reviews the simpler evaluations of his youth.

Although everybody in Miguel Street is presented as being different from everyone else, there are also similarities in outlook which set the people of the Street apart from most of those who read about them. In the Street,...

(The entire section is 448 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

The narrator

The narrator, an adult recounting his life as a boy living on Miguel Street with his widowed mother. He gives an observant, intelligent, and sensitive yet naïve child’s view of the street’s eccentric personalities, often imparting sympathy when the street denies it. An early admirer of Hat, he becomes more critical with age and leaves Trinidad at the age of eighteen to study abroad.


Hat, a keeper of cows and a gambler. In appearance and affected mannerisms, he is like a dark-brown, early-middle-aged Rex Harrison. He enjoys life and imbues simple things with mystery. A keen observer with an ironic sense of humor and sympathy for the least fortunate, he is the wise arbiter, conscience, and spokesman for the street, which changes irrevocably when Hat is imprisoned for beating his unfaithful female companion.


Bogart, a would-be tailor. Appearing languorous and bored, with small, sleepy eyes, he tries to assume the mannerisms and personality of Humphrey Bogart. He mysteriously disappears from time to time and eventually is arrested for bigamy. He left a childless marriage “feeling sad and small” and later was forced to marry a woman he made pregnant. Hat says Bogart returned to the street “to be a man among we men.”


Popo, a carpenter who eschews making objects of utility for the never-finished “thing without a name.” Supported by his wife, Emelda, he relishes life’s simple pleasures and is friendly to the young narrator, who thinks him to be a philosopher. Not accepted by the street until Emelda deserts him and he becomes drunken and aggressive, Popo is arrested for theft soon after she returns. After his release from prison, he is a hero on the street but is changed temperamentally, turning to practical carpentry and driving away the narrator.


George, an unemployed resident of Miguel Street but never one of the gang. Short, fat, gray-mustached, and sadistic, he often brutally beats his children and wife, who tends cows. When his...

(The entire section is 865 words.)