Thursday, March 4, 2010

Twain and Beatty

If I was to choose a modern book to represent the tone and sarcasm of Mark Twain’s Pudd’nhead Wilson it would be Paul Beatty’s The White Boy Shuffle. I equate Beatty’s character of Gunner to Twain’s character of Chambers with their relation of mistaken identity. Gunner is an African American boy who is raised in a white middle class community. All of his friends are white, his interests reflect those of a “white boy”, and he talks and walks like as if he is white. Chambers is in a similar, yet ironically opposite situation. He is a white boy raised as if he is African American; he talks like as if he is African American, treats others as if they are better than him, and relates to the African American community he is raised by.

Gunner’s mother sees that he thinks he is white and moves their family to the “ghetto” so he can learn who he is. Gunner experiences a lot of anxiety when faced with the “reality” of who he is and what he is expected to do as a “black man”. He is forced into sports stereotypically associated with African Americans, and little by little his “White Boy Shuffle” is conditioned out of him.

Contrasting that with Chambers, who after discovering he is not a slave is forced into the life of a white heir. There is not a lot of detail with how his life ends up, but Twain does make mention of the difficulties he faces with his new life, and how unhappy he is for the rest of his life.

The comparison between these two men is very similar, even though they are in opposite situations. The fragments of racism and stereotypes are exposed through the paradoxes and irony Twain and Beatty use in their novels.

1 comment:

  1. That's an interesting modern comparison, Lynette.