Characters in Amiri Baraka’s Home on the Range

The play, Home on the Range, consists of two sets of characters: a white family consisting of four members and the other set consisting of a Black Criminal and a crowd of Black people. The members of the white family are without any names. They are basically identified with the relation that they share amongst each other. Hence, the family members are identified as father, mother, son and daughter. The other set of characters consists of Black people. The leading character amongst them is the Black Criminal. He is also without any specific name. He is identified as the Black Criminal throughout the play. The Crowd of Black people is also anonymous. None of them has a name nor are they identified on the basis of their work or role as the Black Criminal is identified.

The absence of name for the characters is very significant and befits the theme and structure of the play. The Black Criminal tries to reveal the psychological reality of a Black man as well as that of a white. In this play, the Black Criminal shows self-assertion, a freedom of mind, daringness, protest and anger against the white family who is affected by mania, a sadist and the representative of careless white people. The boldness with which the Criminal tries to dictate on the white family and throws his weight in the domain of the Whites indicates that the Criminal has escaped the hideous past of the “slave mentality” and entered a history of slave rebellion. He is trying to subvert the hierarchies and trying to take the role of a white dictator with Black skin in a white household.

However, the Criminal is without a name. He is known by his actions, that is his crime. His lack of a name in a way reflects his identity crisis. However, by taking control over the white family he tries to gain one. His identity as a Criminal that is used as his name can also be interpreted as he is seen in the eyes of a White man; a Black criminal and how the Negros are made to conceive of themselves and their identities; as the white wanted to see or perceive of them.

Other characters in the play besides the White family consisting of four members are also known as Black Man 1, Black Man 2, Black Man 3, Black Woman 1 and Black Girl. The irony of the existence of these characters is that none of them has an individual existence. They are collectively identified as Black and hence to be recognised individually, they are attributed with a number. Amiri Baraka by not naming any of his characters like many other plays of his once more reiterates the fact that an individual’s name is only a superficial creation of one’s identity. According to Amiri Baraka, plays are the most suitable vehicle to raise Black consciousness in the Negros and fight for their due respect. Hence, he might have deliberately kept his characters nameless in order to convey how the Black people in America are perceived. Their names are not the signifiers of their individual identity. Through their nameless existence, Amiri Baraka attempts to convey the fact that a Black individual is actually known by the baggage of his ancestral history, the place of his origin, his race and his skin colour.

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