Mr. O’Neil and Johnny appear to be the main protagonists of the movie.
The two are brought out as having outstanding characteristics that define their true nature. The roles played by the two characters further make it easy for the reader to derive conclusions concerning their behavioral patterns.
Mr. Robert O’Neil is a cruel person who appears to be selfish. He commands his assistants to discipline the slaves although the slaves have not shown any signs of rebellion. This was therefore uncalled for since he was still in control of the situation. This trait is further evidenced by the fact that he orders the assistants to give the slaves pieces of wood to serve as pillows.
He does not treat the slaves as human beings since he feels that he owns them. The narrator confirms that he (O’Neil) bought the slaves from the land of Ibibio with the consent of the king. He therefore feels that he reserves the right to mistreat the slaves. His cruelty is also seen when he asserts that it is healthy for the slaves to turn to their right when sleeping without considering that some people will not be comfortable in this position. The famous slogan that ‘money is the source of all evils’ is confirmed in the movie. O’Neil happens to be a very rich person but through evil means. Money is never enough, despite that fact that he already has a great amount of wealth; he continues to be money-minded.
When approaching the king with the proposal of buying the slaves, he alleges that he is ready to “get those annoying prisoners” from the land of Ibibio. Here, he means that he can help the king to get rid of the prisoners; it is evident that his sole purpose is not to help the king; he wants to make more and more cash. His main aim is profit maximization hence he does not care if taking away the slaves will be a relief to the king of Ibibio or not. He is brought out as a rich person since he pays extra gold to buy them. O’Neil’s’ callous nature makes him to order the assistants to direct the slaves to remove their clothes even though it was cold. He does not care if the slaves are going to be affected by the cold. The idea of ordering the slaves to remove their clothes was a way of ensuring that his vessel remains clean. Even though these slaves are his main source of wealth, he does not care about their welfare.
This trait shows just how self-centered he is since all he cares about is his money, it is ironical that he does not treat his labor source with respect even though it is through it that he has attained his current economic status. The slaves are denied their dignity since they are forced to stay naked, moreover, it is cold hence the slaves are forced to hold each other so that they can feel warmer. The assistants are made to torture the slaves in a ruthless way. This makes them to appear as cruel as him. They follow his orders regardless of how inhuman they may seem.
He seems to be a commander who is able to control people under him. Everything that revolves around his world is less important as long as he continues to enjoy their services and wealth. The slaves are overworked but the food given is not good.
Johnny, one of the slaves, complains that the food given is not worth the labor they are giving. Since O’Neil is in control, he uses his powers to mistreat his subjects.
Knowledgeable Johnny is well aware that the future is not promising away from Ibibio land.
He knows that he will no longer hold his head high; he will no longer have an identity since he will be reduced to an object of labor. He has a premonition that his life will no longer be the same again after this. He feels stressed since he knows that he has been ripped off his dignity. He is able to analyze the situation before the actual experience since it was clear that the new environment was not promising. Optimism is depicted when Johnny and his wife encourage each other that they will find a way to free themselves from this situation. Johnny knows that optimism will help them hope for the unseen future.
This is despite the fact that no one is sure of what is in store, they have no idea of their fate hence they can only hope that things will favor them since they are helpless. Although they have been pronounced as Kane’s property, they still hope that they can free themselves from him. He is aware of his rights hence he complains when any of them is violated. His comfort, food, respect and dignity are not provided sufficiently. He considers the new environment as unfavorable since he does not enjoy his rights. He is quick to realize that the future in this ranch is not promising since his life is made harder each passing day. The rag which was supposed to serve as clothing could not serve the purpose of a cloth; it was tattered to the extent that it could not shelter him from the sun or the cold. He constantly complains about how poor the working conditions are because his basic needs are not met well.
Johnny is a skimmer. He skims on how to get to the staff quarters to see his newly born daughter. Although this plan does not succeed he had planned it in a way that could have assured that he could not be caught. He however made a mistake by trusting a colleague who betrayed him.
His skimming nature is also evidenced by the way he plans to escape from this land. This plan is successful since he does not get caught. It was thoughtful of him to leave his wife and child behind since he was sure that they would not survive.
He carefully plans his escape so that he could free himself from this misery. This time round, he was careful about the issue of trust. The narrator states that he was more careful about whispers along the route.
The two protagonists appear to have distinct character traits, while O’Neil appears to be cruel, money-minded and callous; Johnny is skimming, knowledgeable, aware of his rights and optimistic.