An embittered recent college graduate who lives with his mother. Julian sells typewriters to make money while he halfheartedly pursues his ambition to be a writer. He has nothing but contempt for his doting mother, whom he believes has foolish, outdated manners and is detached from the realities of the changing world. Julian espouses the progressive ideologies of racial equality that he learned in college but finds himself unable to act on them or engage in any meaningful conversation with African Americans. He secretly longs for the comfort and privacy of his grandfather’s mansion on the old family plantation, despite his avowed repudiation of the family’s status as former slaveholders.
Julian’s Mother -
A middle-aged woman from an old southern family who is enrolled in an exercise class at the YMCA. Julian’s mother dotes on her son and has made tremendous sacrifices so that he could have personal and educational opportunities. Julian’s mother lives modestly and looks back longingly on the family history, reminiscing about the family plantation and the political and social influence held by previous generations of the family. She believes that the races should remain segregated and has a condescending way of treating blacks.
Carver’s Mother -
A tired and impatient black woman on the bus, the mother of young Carver. Carver’s mother boards the bus and angrily chastises Carver for playing with Julian’s mother. When Julian’s mother gives Carver a penny, his mother flies into a rage and knocks Julian’s mother to the ground with her large purse. She wears the same foolish purple-and-green hat that Julian’s mother wears.
A four-year-old boy on the bus, the son of the imposing black woman. Carver seems oblivious to his mother’s harsh attitude and tries to play with Julian’s mother on the bus.
The Well-Dressed Black Man -
A black man dressed in a suit and carrying a briefcase. He sits next to Julian on the bus and reads a paper, growing irritated when Julian asks him for matches. Julian wants to chat with the black man to make his mother uncomfortable but fails in his attempts to make small talk.
The Woman with the Red-and-White Canvas Shoes -
A white passenger on the bus. She shares Julian’s mother’s narrow view of race and moves to the back row of seats when the black man in the suit boards the bus.
The Woman with the Protruding Teeth -
A white passenger on the bus. She chats with Julian’s mother about the heat and gets off the bus when the black man in the suit boards.