Last Updated on November 30, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 909
Michael Adonis is described as a young man with dark-colored curly hair and dark brown eyes. He is of average height and is well-built. The story starts with a jobless Michael—he has just lost his job at the factory after an altercation with a white supervisor—lounging at a local restaurant. Michael seems to be popular in his neighborhood. He is also kind, for he offers the destitute boy Joe food and drink. Losing his job puts him in a bad mood, and he feels resentful toward all white people. When he gets back to his apartment, he kills an old Irishman, Uncle Doughty, without meaning to. Afterward, he decides to join Foxy’s group of thugs; he changes from the good person that he used to be to a gangster, one of the “hardcase lighties.”
Uncle Doughty is a white Irishman living in the same tenement as Michael. The two have an alcohol-fueled argument that leads to Uncle Doughty's death.
Willieboy is described as “young and dark” with kinky hair. He is Michael’s acquaintance from the impoverished neighborhood of District Six. The reader is first introduced to him when he meets Michael in a restaurant in town. Later on, he pays Michael a visit to his house. Unfortunately, he misses him and ends up in the room of the dead old Irishman, Uncle Doughty. Shocked, he runs away from the dead man and out of the block, but not before he is seen by two tenants who think that he is the murderer. Willieboy is an idler who has grown up in an abusive home—his mother constantly beats him for no reason at all, and his father is a drunkard who beats his wife without reservation. Willieboy loses his life in the streets after he is shot by Constable Raalt, who believes him to be the murderer of Uncle Doughty, according to the evidence received from the dead man's neighbors.
Foxy is a “brown bony-faced rough looking” man. He is one of the leaders of a gang of thugs. People like him are referred to as “hardcase lighties.” Throughout the story he is seen hanging out with two youths, one simply described as “scar-faced,” the other as “the boy with the skull-and-crossbones ring.” The three are looking for somebody who goes by the name of Sockies, whom they hope to recruit for a shady job.
Joe is a poor young man of the streets, described as “short, with soft brown eyes,” ragged, and poorly dressed. Nobody knows where he comes from. He spends most of his days by the harbor. However, Joe is a sensible young man. He advises Michael to keep away from Foxy’s gang after they try to pressure him to join them. He tells Michael, “Like I said, we all got troubles. But johns like them don’t help you out of them. They in trouble themselves. You’d only add to the whole heap of troubles.”
The reader meets Mr. Greene for the first time in a pub where Michael has gone to have a drink.
Hazel is a girl who lives in Michael’s neighborhood. Michael chats briefly with her when he comes back home from the pub on the day that Uncle Doughty dies.
Police Constable Raalt
Constable Raalt is a white police officer who has marital problems that torment his thoughts most of the time. He finds the crowd that has collected outside of Michael’s apartment block following the discovery of Uncle Doughty’s body and collects evidence at the scene of the crime that points to Willieboy being the murderer. Later on, he spots Willieboy on the streets, chases him, and shoots him. Due to his racism, Constable Raalt is not in a hurry to get an ambulance to take the wounded Willieboy to the hospital. He even asks the ambulance driver to stop for a while at the Portuguese so that he can buy cigarettes—this is in spite of having a seriously wounded man in the van.
Franky Lorenzo is one of Michael’s destitute neighbors. He has financial problems that he doesn't know how to solve, and “he has an air of harassment about him, of too hard work and unpaid bills and sour babies.” He is a father of five, with a sixth child on the way. He works as a stevedore at the docks and is mostly exhausted by the nature of his work. His wife, Grace, chances on Willieboy just as he is leaving Uncle Doughty’s house in a state of great shock, after discovering his corpse in the house. She thinks that it is Willieboy who has killed Uncle Doughty.
John Abrahams is a “bloated” man whom Willieboy helps with a box of matches when he visits Michael’s apartment block. Coincidentally, John also sees Willieboy run out just as Grace’s screams ring out of the block. He thinks that Willieboy is the murderer of Uncle Doughty. When the police arrive at the scene of the crime, John describes the murderer to them. He does not stop to ask himself whether it really was Willieboy who killed the Irishman, for nobody sees Willieboy commit the murder with his bare hands. Later, after giving his evidence to the police, John is tormented by thoughts that he has betrayed one of his own people.