Anyone, anyone can break loose from his chains. That courage, no matter how deeply buried, is always waiting to be called out. All it needs is the right coaxing, the right voice to do that coaxing, and it will come roaring like a tiger.
In William Melvin Kelley’s novel A Different Drummer, Tucker Caliban leads the black population of his home town and the home town of his ancestors away from the 1957 south toward the north. The story is told from the perspective of numerous white residents of the town.
Tucker’s courage to do something about his situation is more than a typical pull-yourself-up-by-your-bootstraps story. It goes deeper than any political ideology. We don’t know what happens after everyone moves north but we get the idea that life won’t be easy there either. But a step has to be taken and the courage to take that step comes from somewhere in Tucker’s psyche going back generations to the African man who was first brought to the American South.
Kelley allows for some of the white characters and black characters to have a mutual respect for each other. There are white characters that know things have to change.
It’s an interesting question as to why Kelley tells the story from the perspective of white characters. I don’t know an exact answer; however, I’ll take a stab and say it highlights both the complete lack of understanding that many of the white population have toward the black population and it highlights the lack of ability the white folks have to change the situation even if they see it as wrong and needing change. Again, that’s where Tucker comes in.
The power in this novel deserves to be heard – and felt.