Character Analysis of Virgil Tibbs (In the Heat of the Night)
In this book, Virgil Tibbs is introduced as a quiet and shy coloured man, but we soon find out he is much more than a man of dark skin.
Virgil Tibbs is a coloured homicide investigator from California. He has gone to the town of Wells to visit his mother, but Sam Woods (a police officer) questions Virgil at a railroad station, which results in Virgil helping the Wells police with a murder case. Virgil Tibbs is the protagonist in the novel “The Heat of the Night” because he is the person that the book focuses on and his story/struggles. He also has some of the qualities of a protagonist which includes, driven by a duty, brave and courageous, and is unaccepted to other people.
When we first got introduced to Virgil, he appears as a coloured, quiet and shy man. Probably scared of Sam arresting him, but once we found out more about Virgil, he is a lot more than just a skin color. Virgil is a kind-hearted and confident man; he gets so much hate just because he is dark skinned. People don’t realize that he is intelligent and more hardworking than all of them. Virgil lives in a time where people are not accepting of his skin color, which makes him have to work harder than any of the other people. When Virgil was first handed the murder case, his determination was always on the case and never got distracted. In the end, Virgil did not just solve the murder case but showed the police department and the town of Wells that even though he is dark-skinned, he is just as capable to work as the white men. An example of Virgil being a confident and determined man is when he was talking to a mechanic named Jess. Virgil states that Gillespie is going to blame him if he is not capable of catching the murderer. Jess asks how Virgil will be sure he will not be blamed, and Virgil simply said “by catching the murderer” this shows that Virgil is a man that is confident in what he is doing and knows he will succeed. Being intelligent and respectful are what makes him a good person. When everyone was trying hard to find leads and suspects, Virgil volunteered to take charge which led to backlash.
Once Virgil was informed that there was a murder investigation going on, he immediately states that he is a homicide investigator and helps out which then results to him taking charge of the case. Of course, everyone is not a fan of him taking charge of a murder case, saying how they do not want a coloured man to lead this case and eventually threatens him. However, this does not affect Virgil and he stays calm throughout all the negativity. Ralph, the man that works at a drive-in diner, refuses to serve Virgil and threatens him to leave town and drop the case. Virgil does not react to this comment and continues to go through the day and work his hardest. This shows that Virgil is a person that is very focused on the things he is supposed to do and doesn’t get distracted or get distressed from the negative comments. Above all, Virgil is a man that doesn’t let hate or rude comments get in his way.
Virgil eventually manages to solve the murder all by himself, when everyone doubted him. This surprised everyone and proved to the town of Wells that a coloured person is just as capable as white men. By the end of the book, Virgil earned everyone’s respect. In the beginning, nobody liked Virgil and was uncivil towards him, but later on, Virgil proves to them that he can work just as hard like them and they learn to respect Virgil. When Virgil was first working the case, Gillespie said that it is best if Virgil leaves town and let him handle the case. When Virgil refused to leave, Gillespie agrees but states that if Virgil messes this up, it will be on him. By the end of the book, Virgil has earned Gillespie’s respect and Gillespie is way more mature and nicer around him. Gillespie even said that he was glad he helped out and was proud of him. This is a big win for Virgil and other people of colour because Virgil has proved to the people of Wells that he and other people of colour can do everything white people can do. This book has made it clear that Virgil is an intelligent, respectful man and also brave and confident. Virgil gained everyone’s respect and changed the Town of Wells and their people’s perspectives of each other’s differences.
In conclusion, I believe Virgil Tibbs is the protagonist. Based on these points it is clear he is the main character. He has some characteristics of a protagonist such as, brave and courageous, and driven by a duty. He took charge of a murder case when everyone did not approve of it. However, he did solve the case and made the people of Wells consider and come around that people of colour can be just as smart as everybody else. Virgil Tibbs is the protagonist because he is what the book is mainly about, the book tells his story and struggles as he solves the case. He did not just solve the case but proved to the people of Wells that colored people have the same equal rights as everybody else.
Virgil Tibbs is an intelligent colored homicide investigator, but his skin color does not affect his work duties, because he is just the same as all of us.