The Characters

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

The characters of The Sport of the Gods are a mixture of stereotypes and innovative new characters. The Oakleys, the primary white characters in the text, are mostly stereotypical Southerners who value family name and image above all else. Maurice Oakley is somewhat unusual because he welcomes the Reconstruction period and sees it as an opportunity to recoup the wealth lost in the Civil War. His half brother Francis is also a stereotypical dilettante southern artist typical of post-Civil War fiction. His artistic talent is sacrificed in order to fulfill his sensual nature, and he spends his money on a Parisian mistress instead of his art.

The Hamilton family presents a more interesting group of characters. Berry Hamilton is the stereotypically loyal servant until he is accused of stealing money from his employers. He then begins to express some of the more radical sentiments concerning racial relations often found in African American novels of the 1930’s and 1940’s. Likewise, his passive nature is changed into an active one after he is released from prison. When he discovers that his wife has remarried during his incarceration, he decides that he will murder the second husband, an action that the old Berry would never have contemplated.

The Hamilton children also represent significant departures from the characters typically represented in turn-of-the-century novels. Joe Hamilton might be considered a stock character from a...

(The entire section is 455 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Maurice Oakley

Maurice Oakley, a wealthy Southern businessman and former slaveowner who is kind and generous, especially to his younger half brother, Francis. Maurice becomes a hardened man after making an example of Berry Hamilton, his black butler and trusted servant, who has been accused of stealing a sizable sum of money from Francis. Largely through Oakley’s efforts, Berry is sentenced to a long prison term, and his family is evicted from the Oakley estate. Years later, after Francis admits Berry’s innocence and his own duplicity, Maurice becomes reclusive and obsessed with hiding this secret. When the truth is exposed by a Northern newspaper, Maurice goes insane.

Berry Hamilton

Berry Hamilton, the trusted butler to Maurice Oakley. Through thrift and industry, Berry has earned a high standing in the community. His fortune changes drastically and immediately when he is falsely convicted of having stolen more than eight hundred dollars from Maurice Oakley’s half brother, Francis. Berry spends almost ten years at hard labor, then is pardoned after a New York newspaper exposes the truth. He goes to New York to find his family in shambles and his wife remarried. After reclaiming his wife, Fannie, he returns to the South with her to their old cottage on the Oakley estate, where they live out the rest of their days.

Fannie Hamilton

Fannie Hamilton, Berry’s proud and illiterate, but thrifty and industrious, wife. She has served as the Oakleys’ housekeeper. After Berry’s false conviction, she and her children are evicted from the Oakley estate and make their way to New York. There, Fannie helplessly witnesses her family’s disintegration. To survive, she marries Tom Gibson, a gambler. After Tom is killed in a fight, Fannie reunites with Berry, and they move back South.

Leslie Oakley...

(The entire section is 771 words.)