He is a difficult character to analyze. We know so little about him from Missy’s story. She records a few rare interactions. First was the plowing and planting of the field before the approaching storm. We see him talking to strangers in town about voting and the resulting Klan visit. Remember his pain on the porch when they carried his son’s lifeless body home? There is a happy memory of him dancing in the kitchen with Miss Emily and the girls. And when Missy visits Miss Ada after learning the truth about Grandma Em she sees James, but all she can say is, “I’m sorry.”
We get a feeling there is much pain behind the façade. Through J.P.’s conversations with Missy we learn the men were raised together as brothers. It was a closeness they lost in adulthood. He married Miss Emily because of love, but her motives were likely not as pure. He was the son of Granddaddy Tucker, loved and taken care of in a sense, but not to a level equal with his siblings. He was given the old tractor and J.P. received the new along with planting and harvesting equipment. But it was not shared with James. When Sara married she was given a portion of land for their home. At his death Granddaddy Tucker gave J.P. the entire farm. James did not receive an inheritance. He was provided with the bare essentials and a life far below his younger brother whose biracial ancestry was hidden. It appeared James was loved and treated like a son in many ways, but not financially and without future prosperity for his children.
A list of words that describe James in my mind include good, kind, compassionate, loyal, loving, hard working, compliant, and all with a sad heart. His life was limited because he was known to be the son of a black woman and because he looked the part.
“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” Santayana