Although to think of him as the ignorant, illiterate sharecropper, committing incest with his teenage daughter, is the greater tendency, Jim Trueblood is neither ignorant nor illiterate, as illustrated by the meticulous plan he devises to keep from being forced to uproot his family, give up his home, and abandon his land. Despite his behavior, Trueblood emerges as a complex, dignified man who deserves our respect and compassion.
Before he became the subject of vicious gossip, Trueblood was known as a hard worker and a blues singer. Trueblood's singing symbolizes his spiritual strength, which enables him to survive his ordeal by accepting responsibility for his behavior and praying for forgiveness. Once he has worked through this painful healing process, Trueblood regains his ability to sing. With his soul cleansed and his spirit renewed, Trueblood returns to his family, seeks their forgiveness, and works to make the best of their tragic situation. After carefully considering his options and weighing the consequences, Trueblood refuses to allow his wife and daughter to obtain abortions, concluding that killing two innocent babies would only compound his sin. Thus, Trueblood demonstrates that his first priority is caring for his family, not seeking the approval of a judgmental community.
Trueblood is also a shrewd man who understands the workings of the white power structure, manipulating it to his advantage. After receiving his eviction notice from the college, he refuses to uproot his family and give up his home. Realizing that he has no chance of openly challenging Bledsoe, Trueblood appeals to his boss, Mr. Buchanan, who writes a letter to Sheriff Barbour on his behalf, describing his situation. When the sheriff along with some other men, after listening to Trueblood's story, reward Trueblood with food, drink, and tobacco, instead of condemning him, Trueblood realizes that he can use his story to his advantage. Although Trueblood is initially shocked to discover that his pain and suffering is a source of entertainment for the white men, he quickly learns to take advantage, using their morbid fascination with his sexual behavior for his own benefit. Once he learns that he can profit from his pain, Trueblood embellishes his story with detail and dialogue, creating the elaborate version he shares with Norton. Trueblood is aware of his story's impact on whites and exploits them to get their money, which ultimately improves his family's living conditions. Although Trueblood is a victim, he is also a trickster, gaining some power over whites and using it to his own advantage.