The Characters

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Roy Heath’s greatest strength as a fiction writer is in his characterization. He creates characters who seem to be real people. In The Shadow Bride, he tells his story from many different viewpoints, including those of Mrs. Singh, Betta, Betta’s wife Meena, Rani, Lahti, Sukrum, the Pujaree, and several others. He displays adroit craftsmanship in constructing scenes in which different characters are paired for purposes of contrast. Almost every character will interact at some point in the story with every other character, and the interactions are always appropriate to what is known of their personalities and motivations.

Heath writes good dialogue that suggests the intellectual, educational, and moral level of his characters; he never uses dialogue in a heavy-handed manner for the purpose of conveying plot information to readers. Like real people, Heath’s characters do not always say what they think and feel because they do not always know what they are thinking and feeling. Moreover, they often have reasons to conceal their true thoughts or feelings.

Heath shares one quality with the world’s greatest creative writers: He is able to project himself into all of his characters. Betta reflects that there is something in himself of all the people he has encountered over a period of about ten years. It should be noted that Heath himself has obvious points in common with both Mrs. Singh and Betta. Like Mrs. Singh, Heath is an...

(The entire section is 430 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Betta Singh

Betta Singh, a young medical doctor of East Indian descent. He has studied in England and come home to his native British Guiana with the intention of helping the many impoverished people there who suffer from tropical diseases and malnutrition. His scientific training has left him skeptical about religion, yet he yearns to find some higher meaning in life that would explain the misery he sees all around him. His idealism brings him into conflict with the selfish, materialistic people who dominate the economy.

Mrs. Singh

Mrs. Singh, Betta’s wealthy widowed mother. She evinces a strange combination of strength and weakness. She tries to dominate her son and everyone else in her household yet yearns to have a strong man dominate her completely. The author refers to her as “the shadow bride” because she seems to have left her soul in India when she went to British Guiana as a young bride.

Meena Singh

Meena Singh, the beautiful, sensual woman whom Betta marries when she is sixteen. She becomes devoted to her husband and shares in all of his misfortunes and occasional triumphs. She is the innocent cause of a serious rift between Betta and his mother, because the older woman does not approve of her son’s undistinguished marriage.


Aji, an ancient female family retainer who tyrannizes the Singh household until she becomes so feeble that she has to be cared for like an infant. She...

(The entire section is 616 words.)