Today, I focused on five novels in the “100 Novels Collection” and identified five memorable characters. These characters all live in NYC or visit the city at some point in the novel. These characters all face different challenges, but NYC seems to be a recurring setting for the action in the lives of these diverse sets of black men.
Berry Hamilton (The Sport of the Gods by Paul Laurence Dunbar)—Berry, once an enslaved person, works for Maurice Oakley as a butler. Berry lives with his family in a small cottage near the Oakley’s residence. When a large sum of money becomes missing during Maurice’s younger brother’s farewell dinner, Berry is suspected of stealing the cash. A court finds him guilty and sentences him to ten years of hard labor. In the story’s end, it is revealed that Maurice’s younger brother actually stole the money before he left to Paris.
Brownfield Copeland (The Third Life of Grange Copeland by Alice Walker)—The son of the title character, Grange Copeland, Brownfield is a promiscuous young man who follows in the seemingly destructive footsteps of his father. He enters a life of lust as a young man. He has many destructive relationships with black female lovers with contributes to his ultimate demise.
Cross Damon (The Outsider by Richard Wright)—Cross acts as an outsider throughout the novel who rejects assimilating and becoming a product of mainstream American culture. Cross lives on his own accord and does what he desires. He is characterized as not being influenced by social and environmental pressures.
John Grimes (Go Tell It On The Mountain by James Baldwin) — The novel opens on John’s 14 birthday. John is deeply confused by his position in his family as well in his Baptist church and longs to gain real world experiences; however, he is terrified by the thought and act of sinning. Throughout the novel, John must come to grips with his spiritual self, his social interactions with his peers as well as the strained relationship he has with his father, Gabriel
Max Disher (Black No More by George S. Schuyler)—is an insurance agent who is the first black person to use Dr. Crookmore’s treatment to transform his phenotypic features from those of a black man to Nordic looking features that are “whiter than most whites.” The story follows Max and others as all of America becomes white and the problems that arise.