Lost in the City: An Exploration of Edward P. Jones's Short Fiction

Section 2: Character Demographics of Lost in the City

By Lauren Phelps & Mohammed Sumili
ArcGIS Maps Constructed by Ahmed Foggie

In Lost in the City, eleven of the fourteen stories have women as the primary characters, and of those eleven, nine have women as the primary speakers. There are three stories with female primary characters and male primary speakers: “An Orange Line Train to Ballston,” “The Sunday Following Mother’s Day,” and “His Mother’s House”; however, there is also one story in which the primary male character yields speakership to a female character: “The Store.” Mapping this trend above, only 7% of the total number of words written by Jones are spoken by men, while over 12% are spoken by women. Jones’s use of female characters is a unique feature in his writing, as fiction has historically privileged male protagonists and male speakers.

Women play consequential roles in Jones's stories; their experiences of DC give new insights into the lives of the Black community. Jones's depiction of women is mainly influenced by his mother, Jeanette Jones. Women conserve the shared African American heritage and keep it alive through storytelling, as Jones depicts them in “Dark Night” and “Marie.” Jones reinforces the figure of the Black woman, especially the mother, as community caretaker and educator, traditionally portrayed by female writers like Alice Walker and Toni Cade Bambara.


This chart reveals the proportions of character dialogues in Jones’s Lost in the City. The first section visualizes the ratio of times male and female characters speak across 14 short stories. The second part of the chart takes a close look at the protagonist, primary character(s), and secondary character(s) found in each of the stories. Hovering over each individual bar in the three categories reveals the character name and number of words spoken in that specific story.


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