Sam Lucas is one of the memorable characters of the black novels of this period. Sam is more amoral than immoral. He lives his life as he thinks he must. He has always been a drifter, perpetrating his confidence schemes upon the innocent and then leaving for more fertile fields. He is dashing and romantic, and his having only one arm makes him a sympathetic figure to many of the people of whom he is trying to take advantage. Cullen’s description of his going down the aisle of the church to be converted with the left sleeve of his coat hanging empty beside him indicates how Sam can turn any adversity into something of personal benefit.
Mattie Johnson is in many ways Sam’s opposite. Mattie knows what she believes and is resolute in her beliefs. She is human enough, however, to be swayed emotionally by the kind of display that Sam puts on during his conversion in the Mt. Hebron Episcopal Church. One must remember that Sam swayed eight other unredeemed souls besides Mattie, so his was a virtuoso performance.
Mattie is simple but not stupid. Although she falls in love with Sam at first sight, she is resolute in her love for him. She not only stays with him until the end, but she also touches him in such a way that because of her he does the most noble thing of his life in order to bring her a modicum of comfort before he dies.
Despite Sam’s dalliance with Emma and despite Mattie’s deep sorrow at the loss of their child, Mattie...
(The entire section is 528 words.)