A Different Drummer By William Melvin Kelley Character Analysis David Willson

As a young man, David resolved to work for meaningful changes in the lives of blacks in the South. He tried to overcome the bigotry of his parents and attempted to commit himself to ideals foreign to the South. Part of the reason for this commitment came from his studies at Harvard and his association with Bennett Bradshaw, a black friend. At Harvard, David was exposed to many new ideas and a different type of black man than he had been familiar with. Through Bennett, David is introduced to blacks as individuals. Thus, at one point in his life, David recognized the extent of the myths and the stereotypes which whites have spread about blacks for so many years. For a while, David became a changed person.

But David reverted. After being smeared as a Communist because of his newspaper articles, he weakened — and went home and returned to his oppressor system. He had a conscience, however, and someone to goad his conscience: Bennett Bradshaw. Bennett wrote to David and continually reminded him that he was no longer a man of his convictions; he was nothing more than a fair-weather liberal. David wrestled with this pronouncement but finally accepted it as truth. From that point on, he was able to live with himself because he no longer had any pretensions about who he was.

David, like Bennett, is a tragic figure. He began with good intentions but allowed the opportunities for action to bypass him. He finally becomes obsolete in terms of the black struggle. He is of little use to himself, his wife, or his children. The irony of the situation is heightened when Tucker takes drastic action. Tucker's chances for success in a new life are much smaller than those of the Harvard-educated David. Yet Tucker grabs for his opportunity.

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