The Characters

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Like the other important characters in Platitudes, Dewayne Wellington develops from a stereotype into a full-bodied person. Although the story he writes is not explicitly autobiographical, he uses it to resolve some of the tensions in his personal and creative lives. His early focus on sex and the power of women to hurt men reflects his own feelings of loneliness and betrayal after his divorce.

Unlike Dewayne, Isshee is confident of her ability as a writer and happy with her identity as a woman and an African American. She is a successful author of well-known works of black folk life and is frequently invited to lecture around the country. While she helps Dewayne to rise out of his depression with her challenging criticism of both his work and his view of women, she gains new insight from him and comes to an understanding that there is more than one way to write about African American romance.

Dewayne expresses his anxiety through his creation, Earle Tyner. As Dewayne grows in confidence and in understanding of Isshee’s black feminist perspective, Earle goes beyond his original role of a computer nerd interested in pornography. He gains confidence in himself while working in the voter registration drive that allows him finally to talk to women. In the end, he outgrows his boyish view of women as objects either of low sexual desire or of high romance and comes to see Dorothy as a loving but fallible human being, both a friend and a...

(The entire section is 497 words.)

The Characters

(Masterpieces of American Fiction)

Dewayne Wellington, the author of the more substantial of the two novels in progress, is revealed primarily through his writing and the ways that his novel reflects events in his personal life. It gradually becomes clear that despite the juvenile habits of his characters, Dewayne is a committed artist attempting to write with sensitivity and humor about the problems of teenage identity, sexuality, and love. It also becomes apparent that, in part because of a recent and bitter divorce, Dewayne harbors some resentment against women, perhaps black women especially. Earle and his novel are, in part, Dewayne’s way of working through his own feelings about trust and intimacy; when Earle is finally able to reconcile and make love with Dorothy, it is a healing experience for Dewayne as well, freeing him to pursue a relationship with Isshee.

Isshee Ayam is initially contemptuous of Dewayne’s work in progress. She calls him a “No-Rate Hack,” urges him to “learn a trade,” and calls his writing “puerile, misogynistic, disjointed, and amateurish.” She also stands him up for dinner and threatens to co-opt his novel, and her initial apologies are rather casual. She eventually begins to gain the reader’s sympathy with a subsequent, more heartfelt apology. Just as important, it becomes clear that her initial dismay at reading Dewayne’s first chapters reflects her sincere concerns about the portrayal in literature of African Americans in general and of...

(The entire section is 561 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Dewayne Wellington

Dewayne Wellington, a recently divorced, depressed, middle-aged black writer who creates the story of Earle and Dorothy, which he calls Platitudes. During a correspondence with feminist author Isshee Ayam, Dewayne comes to a new self-awareness of his own ability as a writer and his attractiveness as a man, reflected in the increasing depth and sensitivity of the characters in his story. His final romantic meeting with Isshee restores his confidence in happy endings in both life and art.

Isshee Ayam

Isshee Ayam, a successful middle-aged black feminist writer who criticizes Dewayne’s work in progress as sexist and as being out of touch with black folk tradition. She offers Dewayne her own version of the story of Earle and Dorothy, set in the 1930’s in rural Lowndes County, Georgia. Her story celebrates the clean, healthy lives of simple country folk whose sexual relations are based on the equality of men and women. Scornful of Dewayne’s ability at first, Isshee comes to respect his writing and his views on romantic relationships.

Earle Tyner

Earle Tyner, the protagonist of Dewayne’s story, a pudgy, awkward, and romantic sixteen-year-old middle-class black boy who acquires confidence and maturity through the course of a love affair with Dorothy LaMont. The story of his relationship with Dorothy parallels that of Dewayne and Isshee. A computer nerd...

(The entire section is 531 words.)