The Characters

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

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.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Ian Ball

Ian Ball, a black playwright in his late twenties or early thirties. Ian was born and reared by his mother on the fictional Caribbean island of New Oyo. Ian misses the easy lifestyle and predictable character of what he calls the South. Ian’s first play produced in Manhattan, Suzanna, was a great success, but it was heavily criticized as sexist by feminist critics. Ian is staging his second play, Reckless Eyeballing. After Ian’s friend and director, Jim Minsk, is viciously killed by a group of white racists and anti-Semites, Ian weathers the complex adversities of rewriting and restaging his play; in the process, he undergoes an identity crisis. The conflicting demands of the theater world complicate Ian’s initial impressions of his talent and his fellow writers. Antagonistic male and female relations force Ball to re-examine some of his sexual attitudes. He changes his play drastically to make it conform to politically correct criteria, and his honesty is questioned.

Tremonisha Smarts

Tremonisha Smarts, a playwright and a black feminist. Tremonisha is the first victim of the Flower Phantom, a mysterious masked man who attacks prominent feminists and shaves their heads. Tremonisha is enlisted to help Ian rewrite his play, although she balks at certain arch revisions insisted on by the white feminist producer, Becky French. Tremonisha undergoes a last-minute anticonversion from feminism...

(The entire section is 498 words.)


(Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction)

As in his other novels, Reed's characters are symbols of the particular social ill on which he is commenting. There are a number of different...

(The entire section is 461 words.)