The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

Froad is a man divided, sharing with the other characters numerous conflicting characteristics. Froad describes himself as “another leopard,” differentiating between people who are completely sure of themselves and of their place in the world and those who are tortured by uncertainty: “Some leopards think they have no spots simply because they have no mirrors. Others manage to know, somehow.” He shares certain qualities with some characters but is in accord with none of them.

Eve, who speaks to the side of Froad which is Lobo, is described as the image of Amanishakete and compared to the dark and gloom of forest and river, of earth and nature itself. She is comfortable with the heritage of Africa, its rites and celebrations, and with the Muslim religion. Froad looks to Eve for the nobility of his African heritage: He finds, however, cruelty, disorder, and carelessness.

Catherine, who is a Christian, speaks to the side of Froad which is Lionel. She is caring, emotionally connected to Froad, but he sees her as being in Hughie’s camp and therefore not to be completely trusted. He is unable to express sexually his feeling for her. Torn between these two women, Froad finds himself paralyzed and uncommitted.

Similarly, Froad is committed neither to the Christian cause of the Chief nor to Mohammed’s Arab sympathies. When he decides to write for Mohammed, it seems to be from caprice rather than from commitment. Hughie, whom he admires for his ordered, rational, European approach to life, he also despises for his cold, authoritarian manner and patronizing approach to African culture. He attacks Hughie, perhaps, to rid himself finally of the duality within himself which Hughie represents. Froad, ultimately, is neither black nor white, Christian nor Muslim, man of reason nor child of nature. At the end of the novel, he has returned to what seems to be a primordial state, awaiting a rebirth; it is unclear what he will yet become.

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Lionel “Lobo” Froad

Lionel “Lobo” Froad, the black South American narrator and protagonist, who is in search of his cultural identity in the fictional town of Johkara in northern Africa. He describes himself as having a “black-Frank-Sinatra face,” stumpy height, and woolly hair; he is described by others as having a face that is not African. He is employed as an archaeological draftsman by Dr. Hughie King. His aversion to King’s predilection for European colonial thought and mannerisms is so strong that he eventually stabs King with a screwdriver and leaves him to die in the jungle. At the close of the novel, Froad becomes savagelike: He strips himself of his clothing, cakes himself in mud, and hides in a tree, waiting to be discovered as King’s killer.

Dr. Hughie King

Dr. Hughie King, a British archaeologist and Froad’s employer. His demeanor is reminiscent of old European colonialists. He is a professional, intelligent, and thorough scientist, but his demanding and temperamental nature ultimately drives Froad insane. While on a dig in the jungle, King is stabbed (presumably to death) by Froad.

The Chief

The Chief, a black Christian minister and Eve’s father. He is an intimidating man whose strident expressions of faith are supported by his thick build and stern demeanor. Early in the novel, he asks Froad to write a tract in support of the black Christians in...

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