The Characters

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

Since all the characters in the novel are presented through the eyes of Eva, it is important that she is presented as a credible character. A member of the Baptist church herself and an ordinary peasant woman, she is capable of insightful thinking and profound analysis of her society. Lovelace’s effective use of dialect in Eva’s mouth makes her that much more reliable in her judgment of people and events.

Bolo, the warrior turned “badjohn,” represents rebelliousness within the society. As warrior, he is both admired and feared. He is the only one to stand up to the police and proclaim the rights of the people, but when the people refuse to support him and fail to stand up for their rights, he turns to terrorizing them, forcing them to find their “peoplehood.”

Bee represents the voice of moderation and patience. Unwilling to challenge the authorities directly, he seeks to use the political and legal machinery to change things. His slow approach results in a falling off of the church’s membership and the loss of the Spirit in the church. Bolo tries to show Bee the inadequacy of this approach. In time, Bee echoes Bolo’s sentiments: “We . . . shoulda never stop worshipping in the true Baptist way” and “we shoulda fight them, we shoulda kill Prince.” Eva, with her commonsense approach to survival, reminds him of the wisdom of his decision.

Ivan Morton’s character is used to discuss a phenomenon within Caribbean...

(The entire section is 429 words.)

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)


Bee, a Spiritual Baptist preacher and a farmer. A dedicated, conscientious, and responsible leader, he struggles for years to keep his church alive despite a law prohibiting his sect’s religious practices. He is strong, dignified, righteous, and long-suffering. Faced with increased official repression, the disintegration of his congregation, and the loss of his children’s respect, he bravely but reluctantly breaks the law and endures the brutal consequences. Hopeful that black political representation will change the law, he works tirelessly for the election of Ivan Morton only to feel trapped, humiliated, and despairing when his trust is betrayed. Challenged by Bolo to restore the integrity of the community, Bee decides on violent, redemptive action but is circumvented when the police intervene. As the novel closes, religious freedom has been restored, but Bee is unable to recall the Spirit to his church. He feels that the Spirit still lives in the steel band.


Eva, Bee’s wife, the dialect-speaking narrator of the novel. A self-sacrificing, middle-aged black woman, she is devoted to her religion, her five children, and her husband, for whom she is a supportive confidante and moderating influence. Relatively uneducated but observant and worldly-wise, she believes that God has afflicted black people with tribulations but given them the strength to bear and overcome their sufferings. She views brown-skinned people as tools of the whites while trying to understand and excuse Ivan Morton for betraying his past and his race. Despite Morton’s example, she advocates education for her children as a way to escape poverty and powerlessness.


Bolo, a famous stickfighting champion and an estate laborer. Tall and slim,...

(The entire section is 738 words.)

The Characters

(Critical Guide to British Fiction)

In his use of Eva as the narrator, Earl Lovelace creates the sensibility of a predominantly oral culture in the midst of rapid transformation into a literate, technological society. Eva’s dialect and that of the characters whose speech she re-creates enable the reader to sense a familiarity with even the minor figures in Lovelace’s cross-section of the community. Indeed, meaning resides largely in the cultural context of the novel rather than in the linguistic codes of aesthetics. Clem, Bolo’s musician friend, for example, responds to the presence of the American soldiers and the tourists that follow them by adapting his style of play to their expectations. As life in Bonasse undergoes its rapid transitions, Clem’s music echoes those changes. His music grows further and further from the chantwell’s role as integral performer in the stickfight ceremonies.

While he reacts to the changes around him with a mask of openness, Clem withdraws from intimate participation in the life of his community. Bolo, on the other hand, reacts with a mask of reactionary withdrawal before he is sent to prison, but his belief in the integrity of the traditions of community leads him to its heart in his desperate attempt to redeem the spirit. Clem goes on to stardom as the popular singer Lord Trafalgar, a parody of colonialism, but to the people of Bonasse, he is only a disembodied voice on the radio. Bolo becomes the “wine of astonishment,” the burden of the...

(The entire section is 466 words.)