Although Grange is the title character, the majority of characters in the novel are black women, and the novel progresses as an account of the women in Grange’s life and what he has done directly or indirectly to them. In structuring major parts of the novel around Grange’s struggles to find himself and to be a responsible man, Walker presents his character primarily from an interior perspective. Although the external conditions of racism and poverty are important to the novel’s meanings, how Grange responds to those conditions is the key to his character presentation.
In his first life, when he thinks of himself as a victim of injustice, he responds to his condition by taking his frustrations out on those closest to him, his wife and his son. He treats both cruelly, because expressing his love outwardly and in positive ways would mean acknowledging his inability to do anything for his family that might change their condition. Beyond his abuse of his family, he retreats into himself and avoids who he is through excessive drinking and by having an affair with Josie. Walker depicts Grange as a coward, a man afraid to face up to his kinship responsibilities. This point is made when Walker has Grange use the occasion of his wife’s affair with Shipley as a rationalization for leaving his family.
Grange, however, is not a static character. He confronts new experiences and a second life in New York City, and he begins the process of coming to terms with who he is and what he might do to make up for his failures in his first life. A growing sense of a new self marks his reentry to...
(The entire section is 655 words.)