The Characters

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Montgomery’s Children is a densely populated novel. Its episodic structure, covering an extended period of time, permits a number of its characters to act in effect as temporary protagonists. Moreover, the characters interact with one another, moving within one another’s stories in complex and unpredictable ways. Of the many characters who populate the novel, there are four who seem to assume central importance in determining its structure. These are Norman Fillis, Hosea Malone, Gerald Fletcher, and Josephine Moore.

In the eyes of the world, Norman Fillis is simply crazy, but the world does not see as Norman sees. He enjoys an intimacy with nature that is lost to the community when the forest is destroyed to make way for the racetrack. He has witnessed both of the actions that may have inaugurated Montgomery’s reign of suffering: the flight of the animals and the burial of Meredith and Hosea’s seventh child. He is a man of vision and power. He can fly, he can teach others how to fly, and he envisions a day when all black people will fly. He has a message to pass on to the right one. In the eyes of the world, he is crazy.

Hosea is not crazy. Hosea has seen into the heart of things and has determined that there is nothing there. Since there is no God, since life is meaningless, there are no standards. Hosea’s power is negative. He withholds himself. He abandons Meredith and their children, and he will not give Alice the love...

(The entire section is 445 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Gerald Fletcher

Gerald Fletcher, a bright and sensitive African American who is a boy at the novel’s opening. He has a brown mark on the white of his right eye, a trait inherited from his grandfather. Gerald’s father views the mark as a sign that the boy has also inherited the grandfather’s irresponsibility, and he inflicts brutal beatings on Gerald for normal childish pranks. Gerald, scarred by his father’s lack of love, becomes quiet and guarded at home. At school, Gerald first befriends Josephine, then ignores her because of peer pressure. Later he apologizes, and she initiates him into sex. He shares confidences and adventures with his friend Iceman, but when Iceman dies, Gerald closes off his emotions and concentrates on scholastic achievement. By 1980, Gerald is one of Montgomery’s successes, with a master’s degree and an accomplished wife. Finding his middle-class life empty, he takes leave from it to reconcile his failed relationships with Josephine and with Norman.

Hosea Malone

Hosea Malone, a short, slim man with a spotted complexion. Originally a pillar of Montgomery’s black community and church, Hosea abandons his faith and family when his son is born blind and witless. He drifts to Manhattan and works as an elevator operator. Fourteen years later he returns, wearing expensive suits and bringing a car full of drugs. Settling down with Alice Simineski, a fat white woman who financed his entry into the drug trade, he becomes a leading citizen. Everyone knows that his prosperity comes from selling drugs, but because of changing social mores and Hosea’s generous bribes, no one interferes. When he visits his former wife, Meredith, she tells him that she smothered their baby years ago. Hosea cautions her to keep quiet about it. Later, when Meredith finally confesses to the police, an ambitious district attorney tries to punish...

(The entire section is 776 words.)