Allegory In Toni Morrison's Playing In The Dark

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In Playing in the Dark, Toni Morrison addresses the recurring themes and faults of racial portrayal in American literature. A substantial amount of this analysis has to do with the concept of the racial imaginary and racial canon. Using specific examples from ‘classic’ American authors, the author breaks apart the underpinnings of allegories around race. Morrison asserts that a contributing part of racism is poor portrayals of people of color in literature. This literary criticism crafts complex arguments and essential conversations around race, its depiction in America, and its ties to American identity. Racial imaginary is a term to describe the ideas linked to and around race that have been constructed primarily through literature …show more content…
Playing in The Dark cites a Hemingway’s “To Have and Have Not” in which a wife who is constantly trying to make her skin darker for “no particular reason” has an interaction with her husband. In this interaction, the wife character Marie asks her husband if he has ever slept with a black slave. This question seems random and ill-timed, considering the couple was portrayed having an intimate moment. The husband, Harry, responds that yes, he had and it was “like a nurse shark”. Far from Human. Predatory. These rhetoric is similar to the savage narrative that white authors have been pushing for centuries. “The Cult of True Womanhood” gives an insight into these racialized and sexualized ties. One of the four main pillars that were emphasized for a woman to uphold was purity. Since African Americans or any individual who was not white was thought to be “subhuman”, black women were seen to exist outside of the societal standards for women, which really equated to white women .It is clear then that the darkening of her skin is tied to a sense and longing of being sexualized as women color so often are. If societal norms did not take away white women’s sexual autonomy or did not fetishize black women, then the darkening of the character's skin likely would not have

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