Henry Adams is presented as an innocent who must be battered about by life before he can begin understanding his racist, militaristic, insensitive society. He is a victim of this society, wanting success desperately but being denied even meager rewards. He trusts in the American Dream, believes that his country is the land of opportunity, and thinks that, since baseball is America’s pastime, he must be treated fairly in his effort to break into the sport. His naive belief that “through faith and perseverance and trust” he can create a meaningful life is dispelled by each of his experiences, making him just “a lost Southern nomad, bewildered in the big city.” Beckham presents him more as a type than as a fully realized character, representative of the effects of the contradictions in American life on a typical African American.
Henry’s goal, beyond providing for Beatrice and playing baseball, is to understand these contradictions: “That’s all I want: just for things to mean something, to make sense.” He is handicapped by not knowing how to do anything other than play baseball. “He felt he knew how dreadful a fish stuck in the sand felt,” the author writes at one point. Henry attempts to overcome his insecurity through clichés: “Well, keep the faith, he told himself. Things will look up if you don’t give up. Keep on pushing.” Such banalities are poor armor in a hostile environment.
A contradictory side of Henry himself becomes apparent during the war. He enters the Army with a simplistic patriotism, and once in combat, he discovers that he does not want to kill anyone or anything, yet he finds himself enthusiastically clubbing seals to death. He is an unformed man too easily swayed by the emotions of the moment. Under Mack’s tutelage, Henry becomes politically committed without truly understanding his friend’s revolutionary rhetoric. He becomes engaged emotionally rather than intellectually and pays for his naïveté. Beckham depicts him...
(The entire section is 814 words.)