In addition to the principal characters, there are numerous other figures who represent Hughes’s impressive command of a people and a period of time. The self-styled Madam de Carter, active in the Lodge; Brother Logan, who has been courting Hager for twenty years; and ninety-three-year-old Uncle Dan, who claims to have fathered more than forty children, are only three examples of the many interesting personalities in this novel. For the most part, they reveal themselves through dialogue and through what others say about them. As a result, Hughes is able to include an astonishing amount of sociological commentary on the community without ever employing an intrusive narrator.
Hughes generally saves his characters’ longer speeches for later parts of the novel when a certain amount of curiosity about them has been aroused. For example, although it is apparent that Hager’s identity has been formed by her experience of slavery, her own commentary on the past does not appear until the last third of Not Without Laughter, when she is alone with her grandson. She gives him what some might consider to be an apology for slavery, but her main point is that to ignore the positive aspects of the hard and unjust life of the slaves is to deny the humanity of all people, white and black alike.
Hager’s piety, however, cuts her off from other aspects of the world that Sandy must explore. His friends introduce him to the pool hall—one of the few...
(The entire section is 563 words.)