Bifocal: Book Characters & Quotes

Instructor: Erica Schimmel

Erica has taught college English writing and literature courses and has a master's degree in children's literature.

When a student is arrested for suspected terrorism, others attending Central Secondary School have to face racial division. This lesson discusses some of the important characters and quotes in Deborah Ellis and Eric Walters' ''Bifocal.''

Entering the Halls of Central Secondary School

Race is an important topic and one that has many questions to address. How do we treat others? How should we respond when we witness someone acting racist towards someone else? There are a lot of frightening things happening in our world now, but how can we keep from allowing fear to turn to anger and hate? These are some of the questions that Deborah Ellis and Eric Walters tackle in their novel Bifocal.

Central Secondary School is made up of a diverse group of students, but there seems to be quite a divide along racial lines, especially when it comes to the population of ''brown'' students. This divide only gets bigger after a student named Azeem is arrested at school for allegedly being part of a terrorist group plotting to bomb places in town. The other students find themselves having to face racial issues and tensions more than they have in the past. Let's learn a bit more about how some of those students respond by getting to know a little bit more about some of the important characters and a few key quotes.

Our Narrators

Each chapter in Bifocal is narrated by one of two characters named Jay and Haroon. Because these narrators alternate, the reader gets to see the events from different points of view. Since these characters are so important to the book, we will spend a bit more time looking at them.


Jay is an 11th grade linebacker on the school football team. This is his first year at the school, but the captain of the football team has already taken Jay under his wing. Football is pretty important in this school, and since Jay is on the team he is learning what it is like to be one of the most popular kids.

One big difference between Jay's old school and Central Secondary is that Central Secondary is way more diverse, which means there are many more students of color. Most of the students in his old school were white, like Jay. Jay says there are ''lots and lots of East Indian or Middle Eastern or whatever kids - the brown kids.'' They all seem to hang out together in a spot the other students nicknamed ''Brown Town.'' Jay sticks with the football team.

Jay may not be actively racist, but he does join right in when his teammates tell racist jokes. At the beginning of the novel, Jay thinks ''a lot of those brown kids look the same to me,'' and he doesn't think much more about it. Jay's attitude is similar to that of his father, who has a tendency to speak poorly about people who aren't white.


Haroon is also a member of a school team, but he doesn't play sports. Haroon is a member of the school's Reach for the Top quiz team. Haroon is a quiet boy who does well in school, except in math class where he fights to earn his B's. Haroon's quiet nature extends beyond the classroom, and he often has trouble standing up for himself. Haroon and his family are Muslims who are ''religious, but they also believe in science.'' His family is pretty close - his father is an English professor and his mother is a doctor. Haroon is even pretty close with his twin sister, although they are growing apart a little as they grow older.

At the beginning of the novel, Haroon is a victim of mistaken identity when police officers arrest him because of the color of his skin. Even though Haroon is innocent, at first he is too timid to defend himself. As the novel goes on, he starts to question more and more. He finally decides everything comes down to fear, or the ''Fear of Terror. Terror of Fear...fear is so unpleasant that we grab on to anything'' including anger and hatred to avoid feeling fear.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account