Colors by Kambon Obayani

Introduction

Kambon Obayani is the professor of English, creative writing and ESL at Pierce College and California State University Northridge. He wrote five novels and a number of works on African-American history, culture and art, including plays, poems, and movie scripts. The main theme of family saga under the name of Colors:Book One is particularly close to the author, since he belongs to African-American culture and promotes understanding and tolerance between races in America and other continents. Therefore, race, as the main issue revealed in the book, being a point of personal concern of the author, is pictured with particular attitude and personal involvement. Colors: Book One continues the series of author’s works under the title of Colors, where Obayani reveals family relations, social conflicts, racial relations and homosexuality both in nineteenth-century and modern American society.

Colors: Shades of White and Black

Thematic Approach to Colors

The book of Cambon Obayani Colors: Book One follows the events described in Colors: The beginning which told the story of Steve, John and his family, and black Ayanna, who brought drastic changes to their lives. The action of this book takes place predominantly in New York in 20th century, with Kwane in the role of the main protagonist and narrator of the story, told in the form of letters. Though, some characters of the previous book are present in the second one, for instance, the Prologue contains letters of John telling his story of voyage to the Dark Continent to steal slaves for his plantation. As the reader goes on with the book, another fact comes to mind: the story chronicles the events that happen to the five generations of descendants of John Baylor, a slave-owner, and Ayanna, a women forcedly taken from her home to serve on American continent. Kwane is a descendant of this couple as well. And though the story goes in another time dimension, in the twentieth century, and touches upon different characters, the main issues revealed by the author of the book stay almost the same, perhaps with some shades of the problems discussed in Colors: The beginning.
A thematic approach to Obayani’s Colors might start out from a number of contrasts and contradictions. The novel is grounded in several approaches that define directions for posterior considerations. Among the issues to consider are the issue of race, the issue of religion and religious attitude development, and finally the issue of homosexuality.

Race.

To the author’s opinion, race is the major concern of the author of the novel. The matter concerns racial issues in the first place leaving religion and homosexuality in the background of the major theme.
It is apparent that Kambon Obayani is concerned with the glaring contradictions in behavior of both blacks and whites and the spiritual development of the two racial groups representing different colors of skin. The scene, in which Steve concludes that most blacks are more talented and susceptible to knowledge, supports this fact.
Another aspect of racial issue in the novel is evident twofold instruction as to how to treat the opposite race. This aspect concerns mostly white characters and is revealed in their attitude towards negros. Let’s take for instance the Prologue of the book, a letter of John Baylor, where he describes the wedding of Ayanna with her would-be husband and presebts moral evaluation of what he sees: “I watched as a primitive ceremony took place. This struck me as odd. How could these soulless creatures have a ceremony? A wedding ceremony with old man stadling in front and children carrying some smoking sacrifice to their hathen gods. I thought that these animals would merely grab a woman and take her off. But the procession was very orderly” (Obayani, p. 5). The attitude of blacks towards whites in the novel is depicted quite the contrary. They tend to treat white race with understanding and reserved courtesy.
An interesting aspect, Obayani raises the problem of attitude towards those who did not follow the instructions. As it is clearly seen, all negative characters come to a bad end while positive heroes or those who changed for the better survive. Among other issues that relate to the matter of race in the novel Colors is the issue of shaping child’s predisposition to the ‘alien’ color in the white environment. This issue was apparent in the first part of the novel, “The Beginning”, and it is present in the Colors: Book One as well.

Religion and piousness

. Another major issue to consider is the issue of religion in the novel. Obayani raises questions of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ in the context of modern religious beliefs that people of the time interpreted in two different ways. Such double standards generated various conflicts developing into two completely different system of religious perception. This defective religiousness allowed the whites their racial leadership and at the same time prohibited the Blacks superfluous freedom. Even in the twentieth century, where the church and religion has no such important meaning, and slavery has become a phenomenon of the past, people tend to justify their actions and unequal treatment of the opposing race with the principles laid down in religious literature. Though, in modern times, when most of the African American are baptized and adhere to Christianity, this problem is not so acute as it used to be.
Next aspect of the issue is use of ‘convenient’ postulates from the Bible while casting aside doctrines that condemn inhumane behavior. The novel depicts those who follow the convenient doctrines the cruelest. For instance, John, the ascendant of Kwane, who was reading the Bible every night, though was very cruel in the eyes of those around him.
In the novel Colors the author reveals the impact of hidebound morality on pious people of the time. Particularly, this might show perverting of good and evil in characters’ minds. It is clearly shown that the issues of good and evil are segregated all the more in characters’ attitude towards various people depending on their race.

Homosexuality.

The problem of homosexuality is probably the most striking line in the whole novel. The author uses this feature as a tool, a method of contrasting between good and evil, right and wrong, black and white. We may discuss few distinctive aspects of homosexuality in the novel. They are homosexuality as vice, homosexuality as punishment and homosexuality as education.
One case of using homosexuality as a contrasting method is homosexuality as vice. Thus, men on the ship abusing a boy who was forced to work off his father’s debt, described in the letter of John in the Prologue (p. 3), are without a doubt referred to vicious sort of homosexuality. However, a twelve-year boy with evident signs of pox is nothing else than a homosexual under compulsion. At the same time Steve, John’s brother, is a product of wrong upraising by a female. Interesting thing to note is the fact that in the both books, first and second books of colors, the most vivid homosexuals which actually revealed this theme, were called Steve. In the first book, Steve was John’s brother, narrator and the main protagonist of the story. In the second book, Steve is homosexual Kwane’s nephew.

Characters

Kambon Obayani uses in his novel quite symbolic approach as to depicting his characters in the scope of race and color. All characters in the novel are divided into two groups – the good and the evil - that however undergo certain transformations through the novel. Naturally, in Obayani’s Colors the Blacks are ‘good’ and the Whites are “bad”, though some considerations should be made. There are several characters in the novel who despite their color act as if they were on the opposite side of the conventional border separating the characters. For instance, Hector, the servant, who accompanied by Clarissa, John Bailor’s wife, kills Ayanna’s baby. Or Steve Bailor himself, who suffers drastic transformation throughout the novel from rather negative character to positive one.
To prove the concept of characters division into the two groups, we should review several characters in order to reconstruct the author’s approach to such a symbolic method.

Kwame Baylor.

Kwame Baylor is the central character of the novel. Kwame Bailor is the narrator in Obayani’s novel. The story begins with is words and ends with his words as well. He is a jeweler who occasionally comes to trouble with the ghost of his grand-grandmother Ayanna.
Kwame deeply loves Dolores, a girl who gradually becomes his wife in the novel. ”I’ve lived my life always doing for my familiy. I never really trusted anyone outside my family except Vino. I never thought I’d need anyone but I realize now I need you.” (p.199), says Kwame making proposal to Delores. Kwame without a doubt is a positive character.

Delores.

Delores, Kwame’s beloved, is another positive character in thi novel. Again, Kwame’s proposal to Delores might serve as a nice description of her character. “You are the workings in this family, Dolores coromanti. Look how stable is Angie when she’s with you. I watch Lorie when she’s meddling around in the kitchen and she sits like you not Angie. She can read music and play the piano; that comes from you. Even Steven, you made him feel comfortable. And me I’m a better man because of you.” (p.199) . Another description worth considering is given by author in the scene where the principal speaks to Mrs. Johnson: “Like the two cuddly bears Delores and Angie entered the school. Salt and pepper.” (p. 195). If Delores is salt, then Angie is pepper. The girls are alike, they develop together throughout the novel.

Angie Ramon Baylor Delahousee.

Angie is almost like Delores in the novel by Obayani. However, it is not a mere chance that the two girls are extremely similar. As a matter of fact, they are sisters-in-law. They wear similar clothes, they share similar mode, they even behave similar. In the scene with principal it is clearly seen how Angie behaves in the presence of the principal: “He’s the principal,” Angie extended her hand. I’m Mrs. Ramon Baylor Delahousee. This is my sister-in-law Mrs. Kwame Baylor. This is our niece Lori. We’d like to discuss one of your teachers Mrs. Johnson. We’re very displeased with her behavior.” (p.195). Angie is nice, her language is formal. She gesticulates significantly. This actually might point at Angie’s vivid nature. Obayani is professional in what he does with all that naturalistic methods. Angie is the positive character in the novel by Kambon Obayani.

Steve Baylor.

It is Steve, the only character in Colors: The beginning” who suffers major inner transformations. Such transformations, however, save him from being ‘punished’ by the author as it happened to the rest of negative characters. Literally, this punishment is Obayani’s method to contrast two opposite groups of characters not through color but through their deeds. As it could be seen in the beginning of the novel, Steve is nothing more nor less than an American slave owner who among other duties uses his slaves for his sexual desires as well. For instance, Solomon. Young and handsome man, Solomon is forced to satisfy his owner in a manner that is hard to depict. Steve abuses Solomon in an ugly fashion. Solomon is now compulsive homosexual.

John Baylor.

John Baylor is Steve’s brother. Just like Steve in the beginning of the novel, John represents the prototype of the Western civilized man. He has high social status which allows him special social leadership. John is pious; he reads the Holy Bible nightly thinking this would discard his egoistic and cruel attitude towards his slaves, his wife and his brother. One of the most striking scenes in the novel is the scene, in which John becomes a witness of Solomon’s sexual abuse by Steve. Being a good Christian, John decides to give his brother a lesson of Christian morale by abusing him in the cruelest fashion (Obayani, p.7).
John Baylor comes to Africa where he steals people from their native environment. He does not even buy or trades them. After killing some of them, he takes the rest away. In this way John, the representative of the country where freedom and equality were proclaimed the basic social values, acquires free labor force and sexual satisfaction.
John reveals his evil nature to himself when concluding in the inner monologue that the blacks are much more intelligent that he is. “Vincente’s hand held me. I heard the music but I only saw his hand and tasted again his blood and flesh in my mouth. It was the same as mine. A complicated passage from Sham and Isaiah’s playing devoured Vincente’s taste. I’d owned them. Had them thrashed with mule tails. Sold them and almost branded Sham for once looking me in the face. And there they stood, playing the Europe’s finest music, of which I knew nothing. They spoke languages and healed the unwell. They had built a clinic. I had inherited the plantation. Everyone I’d seen smelled pleasant and was clothed well. You know how it is on plantations. The slaves are scantily clothed, and unkept. We keep them to break their spirit. Keep them in shit and they’ll only expect shit. That’s the master’s philosophy. These were people much better that I. They were not only doctors. They were musicians creating beautiful music and I could not even hold the instrument properly. Mother had tried to get me to play the violin. She’d sent me to the widow, with Isaiah, who’d carried my violin. I’d gone into town to watch the men gamble and left Isaiah there with the widow. When I returned, he was sitting at the same spot and the widow was sewing. She’d only said to me, “I’ll see you next week John.” I guess that’s when Isaiah learned to play the violin, during my lesson. I thought of all this and realized how lowly I was and how stupid of me to hate this man because the woman I wanted, wanted him. She should have wanted him. He was the better man. What was I? I was a mean slave owning plantation owner and had built nothing. I was wrong because I only had my white skin to hold up as better than Isaiah and here, in this castle owned by my mother and her husband, my white skin meant nothing! Nothing! Nothing!” (p. 43).
With the development of the novel John gradually comes to the conclusion that the Blacks are not those he used to believe they are. He learns they have their culture, their language. He learns that slaves he owns are even more sophisticated than he is. “They are much stronger, much smarter. Gifted. Enduring.” concludes John (Obayani, p. 43).

Clarissa.

Clarissa is John’s wife. Being extremely negative character, Clarissa does not change through the novel. Clarissa is the character that does not develop. Obayani uses the character in the beginning of the novel and in the end, when Clarissa and Hector arrive to kill Ayanna’s newly born child.
“Ayanna! So a slave has a name. You know the idea is to give them new names because we own them. Their past is over. And now you are calling her by name As if she’s human! She’s a heathen John! A slave! God what’s happened to you. You are not the man who left here” (Obayani, p. 3). Clarissa’s attitude towards John is hardly positive here. Although John is a cruel person (maybe because he was raised by another cruel man, his father), a reader probably is about to defend John. It cold be seen through the novel that Clarissa does not even soften as the story develops. By the end of the novel, Clarissa kills a baby without any reasonable background.
”I don’t know anything John. You lifted a nigger of a wagon. You allowed hr to ride in the front of a carriage and instead of riding inside you rode outside on top next to her and helped her down. I don’t know who you are and don’t darling me and try to touch me!” (Obayani, p. 3). The fact that John helped Ayanna to step off the wagon impacted Clarissa in such a way that she abandoned her husband. Her hatred to Blacks is so deep-rooted she refuses to acknowledge her own husband. Another aspect of Clarissa’s character is her egoistic nature. “I’ve seen for almost a year and you greet me with disrespect” (Obayani, p. 2).
It was a common thing that vast majority of plant owners in the United State were those who failed to comprehend such true postulates. John’s wife, Clarissa, is the example of such fanatics. She was raised as negro-hater, and died with enormous loathe for blacks in her hard heart. “How dare you lift a nigger of the wagon in front of me – and the slaves. Do you realize what message you’ve sent them?..” (p.3)

Ayanna.

Ayanna is the most mystic character in the novel by Kambon Obayani. A black female from Africa, she was taken away from her native lands and her husband. On the very day of her wedding her husband was killed by John Baylor. The scene with murder is perhaps a metaphor of slavery in the United States.
Ayanna is the central character in the novel. If considering her character allegorical, we could see author’s attitude to the phenomenon of slavery in the 19th century. If John represents the U.S., then Ayanna is modern Africa. Like John steals Ayanna the United States tear away the Blacks from their environment. And again like John then finds himself under Ayanna’s influence, America becomes dependant on the African Americans. “The Dark Continent is not dark Steven, it’s full of mighty colors of rainbow but brighter”, says John to Steve (Obayani, p. 9). Or another phrase by John “She held me in her power” (p. 11) directly points at such dependence.
Ayanna is a symbol of mysticism in the novel. It would be hard to directly define her nature as Ayanna remains unrevealed through the entire story. The effect of her mysticism is all the more enhanced as Obayani uses uncommon traits portraying her. “It was her. Ayanna. I had watched as she bathed herself. On God Almighty I swear Steven, I watched a fish come out of the water and eat from her mouth” (p. 10).
Ayanna’s power is indisputable. “I know her power. She is frighteningly special”, John and Steve’s mother says of Ayanna (p.50). Anyway, Ayanna is not the only positive character in the novel.
Steve and John’s Mother. Steve’s and John’s mother (her name never appears in the novel) is perhaps the most humane character in Colors by Obayani. Unlike Ayanna, she is open. The only mysticism about her is that her name is never mentioned. It is she who made Johnny (that is what she called her son) believe he had made a mistake. “I can never give back to you what I have taken from you and I am terribly, terribly sorry. I didn’t see how wrong I was and what I’ve done. I am yours to do with as you please”, says John to Ayanna soon after conversation with mother (p.51).
Her own story is more than convincing. She was forced to marry a man she did not love. Her husband, the father of two boys was cruel and harsh. It is he who raised John and Steve in an evil manner. He was a black-hater and taught his sons in the same fashion. Steve and John’s mother fell in love with a slave, Vincente, with whom she soon ran away to Italy. Through this character Obayani perhaps is trying to show the attitude towards those who does not follow the rules of the time. Her escape consequently changed her children’s fates as such a behavior was heavily condemned by the society of the time. Even John having arrived to his mother almost killed her beloved Vincente only because he was black. And only after this blind accident with murder attempt John realized the true meaning of color – it had no meaning. “I need you to help me to draw up the papers freeing all my, the slaves, I, we, - own. I want you to keep a copy here and I’ll take one with me. I’m sure you know an English copier here”, John appeals to mother (p.53).

The emergence of race relations in America

“Perhaps in the middle of the 17th century, if you were one of several thousand Africans living in Virginia you certainly knew that your children would be free -- you might have that expectation. To suddenly find themselves involved in lifelong servitude, and then to realize that in fact their children might inherit the same status, that was a terrible blow, that was a terrible transformation.” (Peter Wood, 2002, 97)
The relations between black and white race date back far longer than one might think – to the fifteenth century. These were the years, which started from 1450, of revolutionary change in the American continent, when Native Americans first encountered Europeans and very soon saw their world destroyed by Europeans settlers. The Europeans at that time explored not only the lands of Americas, but also traveled to Africa, where they started a trans-Atlantic trade of slaves that brought a huge numbers of Africans to Europe and millions of blacks to Americas as well. As the time went by, this new kind of human trade led to the formation of a new economic, social and even cultural system: the one where the color of one’s skin was to determine whether he would be free or enslaved together with all his children and family for life.
The story of European trade with African continent goes back 50 years earlier to the first voyage of Columbus to the New Continent. It began with the Portuguese, who started to explore Africa in search for gold.
In 1441, for the first time in history, the Portuguese sailors received gold powder from merchants of the African Western Coast. One year after this event, in 1442, they returned from Africa with more gold dust and another good which transformed all European culture and economic mode for centuries: ten enslaved Africans.
When Europeans first arrived to the costs of Africa, slavery had already existed in the culture of indigenous peoples there. However, as Basil Davidson in his book “African Slave Trade” (1988) points out, slavery in Africa and the dirty brutal form of slavery developed by the Americans were totally different. African slavery more resembled a type of European serfdom, the condition of majority of the Europeans in the fifteenth century. For instance, in the Ashanti kingdom of West Africa, slaves could marry, have their own property and even possess their slaves. Moreover, as a certain number of years in servitude passed, slavery ended and the former slaves were released free and even granted some property prom their former master. One very important point about African slavery is that it never passed from generation to generation, and of course it missed the racist postulate that the white people were masters and blacks were slaves. (Davidson, 1998)
By the early sixteenth century, almost 200,000 blacks were transported to Europe and islands in the Atlantic Ocean (Baa, 1970). But after Columbus revealed another continent, slave traders found another market for their good: the plantations in the New World. In Spanish Caribbean territories and Portuguese Brazil by the middle of sixteenth century, colonists launched a business of quick and profitable cultivation of sugar, a crop that demanded permanent attention and exhausting work. First, they tried to enslave and recruit Native Americans, but many of them died from diseases brought to America by Europeans, such as diphtheria, smallpox, and tuberculosis (Oates, 2002). And those who survived did not will to be enslaved and often fled to whereabouts they knew very well. European colonists, looking for labor on their plantations, found an answer by importing slaves from the Black Continent.
“Concerning the trade on this Coast, we notified your Highness that nowadays the natives no longer occupy themselves with the search for gold, but rather make war on each other in order to furnish slaves. . . The Gold Coast has changed into a complete Slave Coast”, wrote William De La Palma, Director, of Dutch West India Co. in September 5, 1705 (Aptheker, 1951). This was a phenomenon brought to Africa by the Europeans.
By 1619, more than 150 years after the first trade of slaves on the African coast carried out by the Portuguese, European ships brought a million of blacks to plantations and colonies in the Americas and forced them to work as slaves. Slavery trade through the West African forts lasted for as long as three hundred years. The European traders made more than 54,000 trips to Africa to trade in humans and sent at least twelve millions of African people to Americas.
For the English in the New World there are really three labor options. One is to transport people from England to the New World. Another is to employ or exploit the indigenous labor... And the third is to bring people from Africa. ( Peter Wood, 2002)
It should be mentioned that in Northern American colonies of settlers primary from England, slavery did not institutionalize in such rapid pace. The plantation owners had two options for solving their labor problems: exploit the native Americans, who were unreliable and often chose to leave work and return to their people, or purchase Africans, brought to America by traders, baptize them, give them Christian names and use them as servants on their plantation. At that time, African, after some years of service, could become free. But soon, a turning point in the minds of settlers was reached. They faced a dilemma: to continue hire Africans as servants, or rely on them as on enslaved workers for life, following the model developed on Caribbean islands. The colonists could use workers who were free or would become free one day. Or they might force people to work on their field for indefinite time, without giving them any hope to become free, without even letting them know that they have the right to become free and that they naturally empowered by the same rights the white people are. To this day, America carries the scars of the egoistic decision made at the time: gradually, over several years, they chose slavery. It is worth mentioning, and Kambon Obayani emphasizes this point in his novel, that slavery in America which claims to be most democratic and free nation, was revealed in the most severe and disgraceful form it ever existed. The people, only on the basis of their skin color, were enslaved not only physically, but spiritually and mentally. They were denied the right for self-determination as people, as those possessing human rights. It’s disgraceful to know, but black population was excluded from the provisions of “Bill of Rights” and other so-called democratic documents. “This disorder that the indentured servant system had created made racial slavery to southern slaveholders much more attractive, because what were black slaves now? Well, they were a permanent dependent labor force, who could be defined as a people set apart. They were racially set apart. They were outsiders. They were strangers and in many ways throughout the world, slavery has taken root, especially where people are considered outsiders and can be put in a permanent status of slavery. (David Blight, 2000,138)
A nation that claimed to be an example for democratic movements all around the world in reality segregated people on the basis of their skin and treated those who were not like white worse than any other nation in the world. “All servants imported and brought into the Country. . . who were not Christians in their native Country. . . shall be accounted and be slaves. All Negro, mulatto and Indian slaves within this dominion. . . shall be held to be real estate. If any slave resists his master. . . correcting such slave, and shall happen to be killed in such correction. . . the master shall be free of all punishment. . . as if such accident never happened”, stated Virginia General Assembly declaration, 1705 (Blight, 2002)
This phenomenon, which emerges mainly from egoistic interest to use free labor of other people, was transformed into a cultural phenomenon, where the generations were raised according to the Christian principles but excluded black population from the notion of “people”. Whites were educated to treat blacks as beasts and despise them, and today the problem lies not only in historical fact, but in the culture of people, in biases in their minds when dealing with people of other race (Whitman, 2004).
These issues, the reverberations of historical events, and cultural conceptual approach to different races in American society, are revealed in the book of Kambon Obayani in the vivid and straightforward way, providing reader with the opportunity to feel this conflict almost personally.

Actual Spiritual Development of Whites and Blacks in Colors

The issue of race still remains the most horrible and probably the most frequently cited example of global incomprehension of fundamental moral displays of good and evil, right and wrong, humane and inhumane. A nation built upon principles of freedom and equality declaring them as the foremost principles of the existence of the nation finds itself blood-thirsty with no respect for freedom of others.
As narrated by Steven, John goes to Africa for slaves. But he does not buy slaves on the slave market, he does not trade them for anything, he steals them from their home, where they lived. Here are several examples of men following the perverted the essential principles of morale at the same time representing the Western ‘white ’civilized world: a ship crew rapes a young boy and his sister whom the captain of the ship took from their father so that he could pay his debt to the captain, an American planter who sails to the African shores, intrudes into private life of people living there, kills some of them (for instance, Ayanna’s husband, who was shot and then grimly beaten to death on the day of his marriage with Ayanna) and converts the rest into slaves taking them away to his manor in North America. Then he treats these people like animals (or even worse) and forces to accomplish the hardest work and to obey his every desire not excepting sexual ones. However, in the context of spiritual development it should be mentioned once again that John develops throughout the novel. To exemplify, let’s turn to his inner monologue during which the transformation occurs:”I heard the music but I only saw his hand and tasted again his blood and flesh in my mouth. It was the same as mine. A complicated passage from Sham and Isaiah’s playing devoured Vincente’s taste. I’d owned them. Had them thrashed with mule tails. Sold them and almost branded Sham for once looking me in the face. And there they stood, playing the Europe’s finest music, of which I knew nothing. They spoke languages and healed the unwell. They had built a clinic. I had inherited the plantation. Everyone I’d seen smelled pleasant and was clothed well. You know how it is on plantations. The slaves are scantily clothed, and unwept. We keep them to break their spirit. Keep them in shit and they’ll only expect shit. That’s the master’s philosophy. These were people much better that I. Much stronger. Much smarter. Much more witty. Gifted. Enduring.” (p.43)
Only one man in this novel, from being typical instrument of cruelty, came to realize how wrong is society that treats people with bias according to their skin and deems right and necessary to treat blacks with violence and disrespect.
The matter of conflict is concealed not only in contempt and disrespect. The issue goes further. The ook approaches keen loathe, hate that changes people so deep they become anxious about killing newly born children without considering their deeds be criminal. The description of a child’s murder by Clarissa (p.92) could easily thrill any reader. Hardly one can imagine a crueler scene.
The novel tells about abnormal hate for opposite race through both novel’s characters and detailed pictures of modern ‘white’ society. Particularly, we can see such descriptions in methods of upbringing children by the plantation owners and teaching them from the very childhood to treat slaves in the worst manner: “Clarissa and the girls, like John, thrashed slaves at their whim” (p.4). Thus, the children of this race, with no particular talents and achievements on their own, are allowed and even encouraged to humiliate other people from the very childhood. One can only guess what monsters will grow up from these children with distorted worldview.

Conclusion

The structure of the book and the emotional color of each character leads to conclusion that the main participants of the events described in the novel belong to two opposing groups, which were formed primarily on the basis of their colors: the “black” group, associated with righteousness, positive attitude, and good, and the “white” group, connected with bias, hatred, and evil. The “blacks” and “whites” are not formed exclusively on the basis of their skin; thus, Steve is white but he belongs to the black group. The main line of distinction is drawn on the basis of characters’ attitude to the issue of color: those who tolerate color are positive characters of the book; those who are not tolerant are portrayed as negative. Along with that, as one reads carefully through the book, one may notice that there are “grey” characters, such as John, who turned from white into black. This is explained by the fact that racial hatred was a part of white culture; it was indispensable element of upbringing children. Thus, a person who is kind in the nature fall victim to the environment and under the influence of its culture, imposing hatred to some people on the basis of their race, turns into cold and cruel person. John is lucky to have changed his views and lifestyle, but he is more exception than rule in real life.
The last question to answer is why the novel ended with the fact that all the characters that showed acute racial hatred either changed their views, or were defeated, extremely unhappy or died? This fact is the prove of the author’s idea, that racial bias is artificial instrument of rule and oppression used by white race, which reveals only hatred and other evil things in human nature which are doomed to lead to personal destruction.

References

Wood, P., Diversity: the Invention of the Concept. Encounter Books (2002)

Davidson, B. African Slave Trade. Back Bay Books; Revised edition (1988)

Davidson, B. West Africa before the Colonial Era: A History to 1850. Longman (1998)

Blight, D.W. Beyond the Battlefield: Race, Memory, and the American Civil War. University of Massachusetts Press (2002)

Blight, D.W. A People and a Nation: A History of the United States. Houghton Mifflin Company; 6th edition (2000)

Whitman, T. S. Myths and Realities of American Slavery: The True History of Slavery in America. Journal of Southern History. Volume: 70. Issue: 1, 2004. Page Number: 139+.

Smith, J.D. Black Slavery in the Americas: An Interdisciplinary Bibliography, 1865-1980. Greenwood Press. Westport, CT, (1982)

Aptheker, H. (ed.). A documentary history of the negro people in the united states. Secaucus, nj: citadel press, (1951).

Baa, E. M. Theses on Caribbean topics, 1778-1968. San Juan: institute of Caribbean studies, (1970).

Unger, I., Tomes, R. R. American Issues : A Primary Source Reader in United States History, Volume I: To 1877 (4th Edition). Prentice Hall; 4 edition (2004)

Bailey, B. T. A Divided Prism: Two sources of black testimony on slavery. Journal of southern history, 46 ( 1980): 381-404.

Katzman, D. M., Blight, D. W., Chudaciff, H. P., Paterson, T. G., Tuttle, W. M., Escott, P. D., Norton, M. B.. A People and a Nation: A History of the United States. Houghton Mifflin Company; 6th edition (2000)

Oates, S. B. Portrait of America: From the European Discovery of America to the End of Reconstruction. Houghton Mifflin Company; 8th edition (2002)

Battle, L. The social history of slavery: A unit in a college black american history course. D.a. Dissertation, Carnegie-Mellon university, (1973).

Blackwell, V. Westward Expansion and Slavery in America: Two Curriculum Units for Slow Learners. Ph.d. Dissertation, Carnegie-Mellon university, (1970)

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