Possessing the Secret of Joy Additional Characters

Alice Walker

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Tashi Evelyn Johnson

Tashi Evelyn Johnson, the protagonist. She is born in Africa and reared until she is a young woman as a member of the Olinka tribe, then moves to America, where she lives for most of her adult years. She returns to Africa when she is middle-aged. She intends to murder M’Lissa, who performed a female circumcision on her. Tashi experiences a number of cultural shocks in her life, from the British takeover of her country to moving to America and trying to adjust to being an “African American.” In her moves, she marries, has a slightly retarded son, learns that her husband has had a longtime affair with a white woman, and remembers a series of Olinka rituals that left her scarred for life and killed her sister. These rituals, which included genital and facial mutilation, haunt her every waking hour. In the process of making adjustments, she loses her mind.


Adam, Tashi’s husband, who grew up in Olinka. He is, on the surface, a good husband and provider. Tashi’s childhood scars and her ever present responses to them create a rift in their marriage. He is the adopted son of missionaries who attempted to convince the Olinkans to give up ritual mutilation.


Olivia, Adam’s sister. She has been Tashi’s best friend since they were prepubescent girls in Africa. She tried to convince Tashi not to allow herself to be circumcised. She understands some of the strange behavior that Tashi exhibits in her middle age and helps her deal with the medical problems that result from the...

(The entire section is 650 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

Walker's central character is patterned after the archetypal hero on a hero's journey. Tashi leaves civilization, tracks her tribe's warriors...

(The entire section is 723 words.)