Rodney was at a time so odious that an agent told me to rewrite him to be "more likable." And that's what I did. Because I agreed - I needed to show his humanity, his redeeming qualities. Because that is the truth of life; everyone has likable characteristics, even if you have to dig deeply to find them. Spend enough time with a person, and you will find ways to empathize, sympathize, and understand them. This is the complication of writing a dislikable character. Hatred happens when we refuse to see someone for their entire selves; we fear that if we see more than the qualities we hate, we will become them or worse, allow them to enter our hearts. Rodney is ignorant, and despite the fact that he is disconnected from the culture he is in, he feels entitled to changing it, questioning it, taking from it, romping through it for the sake of "experience". His journey in Without Shame is one where he meets contradictions and challenges to his complacent worldview. He comes from a background of racial, ethnic, and economic privilege, and this is something that has shaped his optimism, ideas of how to prosper, and confidence in those 1960s American ideals. At the start of the novel, he does not possess enough knowledge or wisdom to recognize what ignorance looks like, but readers will. I've tossed a ball high in the air for readers, and we will see where it lands. I do not make definitive conclusions. I do not state what my personal beliefs are. I created Rodney and other characters to reflect viewpoints and actions that I've observed from Westerners. "Play where it lies."
Sajib is an amalgam of the best teachers I've admired in my life: true to himself, deft with words, passionately committed to personal values and beliefs, rooted in personal understanding of life's purpose and meaning. Not exclusively "eastern," these are traits I admire in others and strive to possess; they are my vision of what a teacher and committed political activist should be, and that is why they belong to Sajib. While he is a teacher, he is not the quintessential "wise man"; he has flaws and discontent, as all characters should. He is clouded by his passion at times, to the point where he cannot see what his niece Sariyah needs and he speaks as if he is the only voice. He has been broken down and forced to rebuild many times. He speaks as if he doesn't have cares, but when his guard is down, it shows he is deeply restless and disconcerted by the position of his country.