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Jake is an alcoholic and a drifter. He ran from his poverty sticken family when he was still a child and his only education is what he has picked up from scattered reading. His ideas are therefore without logical constraints. Even his vocabulary demonstrates his inadequate education. he uses big words, it seems, to impress himself ad others, but the big words only confuse his listeners and, often, they are not even real words. It is not a coincidence that Jake started out as a sort of missionary. The fervor of his ideas that it is his duty to spread the word comes straight out of the fervor of born again evangelists to spread the word of God to the non-believers. In this and in Jake’s near insanity, McCullers discredits the ideas of those one the left who argue for a more equitable distribution of wealth than capitalism provides.
He is a man who parallel’s Jake Blount in many ways. McCullers has them meet three times before they finally get together for a disputatious conversation. Doctor Copeland shares Jake’s ideas about economic injustice, but clearly has a more formal education and so thinks more clearly. He has worked out a social theory which combines the ideas of Karl Marx on the redistribution of wealth with the ideas of African-American philosophers like W.E.B. Dubois on the best way to improve the condition of African Americans. While his theory is more sound than Jake’s, he shares with Jake a central flaw--he doesn’t take other people’s integrity into account.
Both Doctor Copeland and Jake Blount find in Mr. Singer a listener who doesn’t interfere with their rambling thoughts, who doesn’t disagree with them, and who seems to understand them. In their intense attachment to Mr. Singer, McCullers shows their need for human contact, their need for love.
Biff Brannon is the watcher of the novel. He doesn’t attach emotionally to Mr. Singer as the other characters do; he just watches as Mr. Singer gains one satellite after another. Unlike many of the spectator figures in fiction who tend to be the representatives of the social norm, Biff Brannon has his own eccentricities. He loves to take care of people who are different or hurt. He says he loves freaks and his wife Alice says he himself is a freak. Perhaps Biff’s own distance from the norm makes him so attracted to the people of the night. He thinks of himself as a conservative, but he is attracted to those who are quite distant from the norm.
In Biff, McCullers develops an character who finds himself and accepts himself. Before his wife’s death, Biff seems to be a hounded man. He doesn’t want to argue, but finds himself arguing with his wife every time they encounter each other. When she dies, he begins to wear her perfume, he redecorates his bedroom with great care, he takes an interest in window display of his cafe, and he indulges in fantasies about the past and his place in it. McCullers makes of Biff a figure who crosses gender boundaries. In this sense, he is something like Mick Kelly.