Monday, February 11, 2008

Jake, A Tragic Hero without the heroism

The difficulty with Jake Jackson is that he deserves the reader's sympathy, and yet is so helpless and stubborn that the reader cannot understand why he does some of the things that he does. Jake is both a victim and a culprit. Jake is victim to himself mostly—he lacks self control and his methods for dealing with debts are to accumulate even more debts. Jake is also incredibly gullible. When with his friends, he comes across a “religious” man who turns water back and forth between black and clear by using “acid”. Jake marvels at this scam, “That guy's smart!” and “Yeah, he knows what he's talking about!”(98). The fact that Jake eagerly believes anything he is told makes him a tragic hero. He throws his money away on lottery tickets, food he does not need (he is overweight), and ultimately, on debts to pay off other debts. When Jake is lent one hundred dollars, he spends fifteen on food at Rose's club. He is also prepared to spend another forty so that he and his friends can have sex with prostitutes. That means that Jake was willing to throw away more than half of the money he borrowed with the hopes of paying off another debt. When Jake's money is stolen, the reader concludes that it would have been thrown away on careless spendings anyhow.

Jake also makes a habit making scenes. It seems that the world is often against him, but he attributes this to his being black. He despises society for keeping him, a black man, so low on the social ladder, and yet he hates Howard, a black man who is his superior at the post office. Jake is a hypocrite for wanting success for the black race, as long as that success comes to him exclusively.

1 comment:

Erin Sells said...

I think Jake is definitely jealous of Howard's success, even though it comes by the same method Jake himself advocates with Doc in the barbershop--the easiest way up the social ladder to Jake's mind is to throw your lot in with white people in power. Howard does this, but Jake derides him for it, probably out of jealousy. Jake's jealousy may be more a result of his ignorance and shortsightedness than hypocrisy. His society has trained him to look out for number one, because no one else is going to.