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Coalhouse Walker, the Black musician and the lover of Sarah, has incredible import to the main themes of the novel. His characterization provides insight into race relations in turn-of-the-century America. Many characters react strongly to his mannerisms, as they believe his social position does not warrant such behavior. Because Coalhouse conducts himself with a sense of pride atypical of African Americans at this point in history, his expectations of how he should be treated repeatedly come into direct conflict with others' expectations of how African Americans should be treated. Coalhouse Walker, then, represents all African Americans who challenge the expectations many whites have of them. However, his character ultimately becomes the stereotypical "angry Black male" as he resorts to violence to resolve his feelings toward society.
Ace your assignments with our guide to Ragtime!