In the first chapter of New Day, the action flashes back to 1865 and the presentation of Pa John Campbell, a third-generation landowner and headman on the estate of the near-white public figure George William Gordon (a man actually executed as a result of the 1865 Rebellion and an officially named national hero of modern Jamaica). Pa John is of Afro-Scottish background, and the narrator observes, “All our family have got daylight under their skins and hair like English flax.” Because the family appears to be white, the members must be careful to demonstrate that they are not “playing like buckra,” and in fact they do usually identify themselves with their black compatriots.
Pa John is physically powerful, a skilled hunter and a natural leader who shuns public office in favor of minding his own business and working hard to support his family. At home he is a Bible-quoting authoritarian and in public a member of the established church and a respecter of the constituted authority. His stubborn faith in British justice and the belief that righteousness will protect him from scandal and persecution lead to his destruction.
Davie Campbell is the novel’s most fully realized character and beloved of the narrator, his youngest brother, Johnny. Contrary to his father, Pa John, Davie is impulsive and willing to contemplate violence to achieve political and economic change; too late he recognizes that his people need more preparation and better leaders than the vengeful Paul Bogle. One of the novel’s set pieces is the long, impressive but unlikely...
(The entire section is 647 words.)