Tucker Caliban is the descendant of an African chief who was brought to America in chains. The African refused to be enslaved and fought the system and the men who tried to keep him a captive. His fight ultimately ended in his destruction, but he left his child to carry on in his tradition. Thus Tucker is related to the African and to a part of the legend that surrounds the African's descendants.
Our view of Tucker, it should be noted, is one-sided; we get to know him mainly through the narration of white characters. Even so, there are many significant aspects to this man. He is of small physical stature, yet he has the power to intimidate those around him. Most important, he views himself as a man. Accordingly, all of those with whom he has contact respect him. Tucker is also a thinker, but he does not let his ability to think prevent him from being a doer. Further, he is determined, and once he has decided upon a course of action, there is nothing or anybody that can deter him.
In Tucker Caliban, Kelley has given the black man both dignity and heritage. Here is a man, like the African, who resists the ideals of the oppressive society in which he lives; he is a man who is linked with his past, a past that the society of the South has tried to destroy. Significantly, white people tell the reader this, thus revealing that their myths and lies have been just that — myths and lies.
Tucker is not really a speaking character because Kelley wants us to realize that what we say has little meaning; it is only what we do that counts. The black people in the novel do; the white characters talk. Moreover, Tucker does not speak because it is important that whites and blacks become cognizant of the pervasiveness of the black presence in white society. Tucker is a rather well-developed character because the whites know quite a lot about him and have been affected by him. Yet he is not a fully developed character because the reader does not know how he perceives himself, or how the blacks around him think of him. But this is not finally important in the context of the novel. Tucker Caliban is the symbol of the new black man, a spiritual descendant of Africa, an integral part of American society, and a determined fighter.