We are first introduced to Virgil Tibbs at a train station, where he sits silently upon a bench marked “coloured.” He appears to be quiet and shy, and possibly scared of the Caucasian officer who arrests him, but we are soon to realise that there is a lot more to Mr. Tibbs than just his skin colour. Confident, intelligent, and determined are some words used to characterize a great person, and all of these words apply to Virgil Tibbs.
Virgil Tibbs’ confidence is evident from an early stage in the book. Virgil is black, and he lives in a time in which people are not quite so accepting to his darker skin colour. His race is treated unfairly because their skin is darker than most, and Virgil finds himself being insulted and ridiculed constantly. Yet he does not seem to let it get to him, and stands tall and confident before all those who look down on him. In Chapter 4 of the book Chief Gillespie states that Virgil has a “...pretty fancy name for a black boy...”(pg.36). Gillespie then continues to ask what they call him in Pasadena, the town Virgil comes from, and Virgil answers assertively, “They call me Mr. Tibbs.” (pg.36). This line shows that Virgil is confident with his authority, even when pitted against someone who in the times was looked at as superior to him, although Virgil was undoubtedly far more intelligent than Gillespie.
That brings us to the topic of Virgil’s intelligence. It is plain to anyone that Virgil is relatively smart, and much smarter than most of the other characters in the novel. Perhaps Virgil is not much smarter than the average person, but in the book he appears to be exceptionally gifted. I believe this is because the other characters in the novel lack a proper education, where as Virgil attended college as we learn when Harvey Oberst asks Virgil if he’d been to school and Virgil answers, “College.” This of course is not the only evidence to support that Virgil is intelligent. In the novel he is constantly showing up Gillespie and...
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