Two Wings to Veil My Face Characters

Leon Forrest

The Characters

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Nathaniel Witherspoon, a college dropout, twenty-one years old at the time of the novel, writes down his grandmother’s memories. His recrafting of his family history forms the structure of the novel as he interlaces sermons, tales, and memories. From this experience he shapes a worldview that gives meaning to his existence.

Sweetie Reed Witherspoon relives in detail her family history, giving a picture of pre-and post-Civil War life in the Deep South. Her tales of the horrors of slavery and the triumph of the black spirit bring alive the distant past. Sweetie Reed’s mother, Angelina, and father, I. V. Reed, were married as slaves in 1855. Sweetie Reed marries Jericho W. Witherspoon in 1882, when she is fifteen years old and Jericho is fifty-five. Barren, she has one adopted son named Arthur. After Jericho Witherspoon and Sweetie Reed get a divorce, she becomes a preacher. Sweetie Reed is an oral historian who uses all the rhetorical tricks at her disposal to give a complete picture of the past.

Aunty Foisty, the ancient conjure woman, forms the second primary link to the past. Aunt Foisty’s history stretches back to Africa. She is rumored to have clawed her way out of the bottom of a slave ship. With her African retentions in language and folk religion, she is the primary image of the African mother figure who gave birth to a great race. Aunty Foisty possesses powerful magic. She controls the Praise Shack, to which the slaves come to...

(The entire section is 549 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Nathan Witherspoon

Nathan Witherspoon, a young black man born in 1937. He has a college education. He transcribes the family reminiscences of Sweetie Reed Witherspoon. Nathan has a special relationship with Sweetie Reed, who helps him gain a new perspective on his family heritage. The tragedies, antagonisms, and triumphs of I. V. Reed, Angelica Reed, Jericho Witherspoon, and the Rollins Reed plantation are written down by Nathan as his grandmother talks. As the precocious child of a failed marriage between a black man and his light-skinned wife, Nathan forms a new appreciation of his African American heritage as the story unfolds.

Sweetie Reed Witherspoon

Sweetie Reed Witherspoon, who is ninety-one years old and is the great storyteller of the novel. The death and funeral of her estranged husband J. W. Reed inspire her to narrate the complex tale of her past. Sweetie Reed was once a minister and has a special relationship with God as well as possessing the oral history of her clan. She is also mystical and often has dreams within dreams. Her recollections of slavery, the Civil War, and Reconstruction form the basis of the novel. Her memories chronicle the Witherspoon family from slavery into the twentieth century. Lying on her bed, coming in and out of reveries and memories, Sweetie Reed is the last in a long line of oral historians who maintained the continuity of the African American spirit through difficult times....

(The entire section is 456 words.)