Ian Ball is the principal character in the book. As a young playwright from the fictional Caribbean island of New Oyo, Ball is undergoing an identity crisis in the high-pressure theatrical world of New York. All the other characters can be seen in relation to Ian, who is at the center of a battle between male and female viewpoints.
The crux of the novel involves Ian’s attempts to get his second play, Reckless Eyeballing, published. Becky French, director and white feminist, and Tremonisha Smarts, playwright and black feminist, oppose the production. Jake Brashford and Randy Shank, both black playwrights, urge Ian not to change his mind and give in to feminist pressure to rework his play.
Detective O’Reedy seems a caricature of a sexist, racist white policeman. His frequent use of violence on black and Hispanic subjects suggests mental instability. His search for the Flower Phantom, who defiles women by shaving off their hair, seems anything but authentic.
In fact, the characters in the novel are difficult to picture as real human beings, because they exist principally as mouthpieces for ideas. Consequently, it is hard to develop sympathy for them as characters with real problems. Throughout the novel, few of the characters change or question themselves; they have the feel of types rather than individuals.
Ian appears to be an exception; he gives in to the demands of his feminist producers and changes the...
(The entire section is 502 words.)