A Different Drummer By William Melvin Kelley Character Analysis Camille Willson

Camille Willson is what Kelley characterizes as the "new" southern woman — that is, she has traveled away from the town in which she was born and has seen some other ways of living. However, like the typical southern woman, she sees blacks only as servants and is never overly concerned about society's denial of their humanity.

The early years of Camille's marriage to David were blissful, partly because she was ignorant of the kinds of changes which he and his northern friends were trying to make in the South. Her most admirable and enduring quality is the depth of her belief in, and commitment to, her husband — despite the years of silence in their marriage after they moved back to live with his family. After moving back to the family home, David becomes quiet and introverted; he feels guilty because he has betrayed his youthful ideals. Camille is left out of his life, and the two children become her main concern.

Camille's blindness to the unfairness of the southern racist system is demonstrated by the fact that she was never concerned about Tucker and his lack of opportunities despite the fact that Tucker and Dewey were playmates. She recalls one evening when she was putting the boys to bed — in the same room — and young Tucker gave her some advice. Although she was not convinced that the boy knew exactly what he was talking about, she did listen to his advice.

It seems as though Tucker's act frees David and saves his marriage. However, there is never any indication that Camille has the slightest understanding of Tucker or of the other blacks, or that she has begun to grasp the cruelty of the social system which protected her and her daughter from the harsh realities of their southern society.

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