Character Analysis Richard


Richard is another character who is very proud. Unlike Ester, whose pride is a source of strength, Richard's pride makes him emotionally vulnerable. Initially Richard's pride leads him to educate himself so that no one would ever be able to insult him or embarrass him because of his ignorance. This was no easy task because he received little education as a child. His mother had died when he was young and his father was absent, so he was passed around among relatives until he was old enough to fend for himself. As an adult, Richard enjoys visiting museums and reading about a variety of subjects. He also takes classes while he works.

Richard's situation serves as a kind of microcosm of the general theme of the novel. Richard is an admirable, noble character who has no apparent character flaws, who does as the dominant (white) society would have him do in his situation, and who works hard to improve himself. Richard's greatest fear is to loose his pride, to be humiliated to the degree that he felt it in his soul. His strategy is to fortify himself against such a possibility; therefore, he educates himself; he works hard; he performs his work well, and he offends no one. Nevertheless, by sheer coincidence, by a tragic, random act of fate, by simply being in the wrong place at the wrong time, but most importantly by being African-American, Richard is swept into the racist system by the very arm of that system whose responsibility it is to protect him. His character is irrelevant; his protestations of innocence are irrelevant; his history, his education, his employment record, his personality — all are irrelevant.

Richard is unable to withstand the blows to his pride. The racially motivated arrest along with the resulting racial slurs and physical abuse leave him emotionally devastated. Humiliated to his soul, he commits suicide.