Truman faces numerous influences and desires in his life, which ultimately conflict and scatter him, making his personality ambiguous and unresolved. His inner conflict is expressed mainly in his fixation on the women in his life and the grip that they have on him. Meridian and Lynne represent two extremes, and Truman is drawn to each but is unable to commit to either. Meridian ultimately frees herself of his mercurial affections and his confusing presence, which are obstacles to her physical and emotional recovery. Initially, in their student days, she believes that Truman is guilty of the same overly reductive and short-sighted racial patronage as Lynne, and that he fetishizes Lynne’s whiteness just as Lynne lives vicariously through his blackness. Later, as an artist in Harlem, Truman can only objectify black women, casting them in mute marble or obsessively painting representations of Meridian that are far from the woman she actually is. Just as Lynne views blacks and black life aesthetically, Truman turns to artistic representation to confront and work out his conflicted sense of his role and identity as a black man and his understanding of race and race relations.
Truman subscribes to traditional notions of gender roles, in which the man is the dominant force in a relationship, and his assumptions of male dominance are the source of his arrogance and short-sightedness. He expects women to uphold a standard of purity that he does not apply to himself, and in this way, he is a victim of the sexual attitudes of his world and times. He is drawn to powerful, intelligent, and charismatic women who only reveal the conflicted and confused man who exists beneath the swagger and stereotypical male behavior. Truman also struggles with his relationship to black culture. His pretension and desire for worldliness have led him to study abroad in France, and his dialogue is peppered with rudimentary French phrases. His interest in the movement, to which he initially dedicates much time and interest, sours. Only when he is freed of the various confusing presences and influences that mark his life is he able to confront himself as an individual and fill his life with purpose and meaning.