Character Analysis Dr. A. Hebert Bledsoe


Instead of preserving and protecting the legacy of the Founder, Dr. Bledsoe distorts and perverts the Founder's dream of lifting the veil of ignorance from his people. Rather than enlightening his students and providing them with an education that prepares them to contribute to society and function as educated adults in the real world, Bledsoe perpetuates the myth of white supremacy. Thus, pondering the statue of the Founder lifting the veil, the narrator suspects that Bledsoe is, in fact, lowering the veil and ensuring that his students remain in the dark. Bledsoe tells the narrator, who sees education as a means of achieving a sense of pride and dignity, "You let the white folk worry about pride and dignity — you learn where you are and get yourself power, influence, contacts with powerful and influential people — then stay in the dark and use it!" Like the mockingbird that befouls the statue of the Founder, Bledsoe makes a mockery of the Founder's dream.

Although he appears to be everything that Rev. Barbee is not, Bledsoe is a mirror image of Rev. Barbee. Seeing Rev. Barbee on stage in the auditorium for the first time, the narrator has a hard time distinguishing between the two men, both of whom are fat, bald, and ugly. Bledsoe also shares the Reverend's mannerism of "making a cage of his fingers" as he talks and, like the Reverend, he carries a white handkerchief (but his is embroidered in blue).

Considering the controversies that surrounded Booker T. Washington, regarded by some as a respected black leader and by others as a "sellout" and "Uncle Tom" for his conservative views on social equality for blacks, Barbee and Bledsoe represent two contrasting views of Washington, the model for the Founder.

Like Trueblood, Bledsoe is a blues singer and storyteller, but he is also an egotist and a power-hungry opportunist. From Barbee's sermon, Bledsoe was once an idealistic young man like the narrator who truly believed in the Founder's dream, but his painful experiences as a black man in a racist white society so distorted his vision of what his life could be that he can no longer see the dream. As Barbee points out, he is unable to reconcile the way things are with the way they're supposed to be; he can no longer cope with the brutal reality of his life. To survive, he learned to play the game at the expense of killing his soul and betraying his people.

Bledsoe apparently feels that to disillusion the narrator and tell him the truth about the narrator's perceived role in society is better than allowing him to discover it for himself. But the narrator refuses to listen to Bledsoe and threatens to expose him. Realizing he can no longer control him, Bledsoe devises a devious plot to get rid of the narrator before he can cause trouble for the school.