Plum Bun: A Novel With A Moral

1452 words - 6 pages

Jessie Redmon Fauset's novel, Plum Bun, is a story of African American self-hatred told through the life of the protagonist, Angela Murray and her family, who are divided by color.Plum Bun was set in the 1920s, which was a time of tremendous change in America in many areas including technology, economics, and civil rights. During that decade, people were moving from farms and rural areas into cities where they began to focus on education in the school systems and civil rights. Cities like New York became filled with men and women seeking to educate themselves, thus developing into one of the most important civil rights movements - the Harlem Renaissance, or the "New Negro Movement." In this movement African Americans, for the first time, began to focus their energies on celebrating their own culture and challenging racism. This celebration was the critical first step required for African Americans to attempt to overcome racism and self-hatred within their own community.Fauset sets the stage for these issues in Plum Bun by creating a family in which one daughter is extremely light skinned and the other is dark skinned. Angela Murray, the light skinned daughter, is able to "pass" in society as being white. At first "passing" is a lighthearted act, but later it becomes a way of life for her when she leaves her friends and family in Philadelphia and moves to New York to live life as a white woman. "Passing" was common in America and was a manifestation of many problems within the African American society. African Americans were "…from the day they are (were) born, bombarded with images to reinforce the "black bad, white good" paradigm. From intellect to beauty to passion to charm to grace to femininity to strength to power we are portrayed as the losers, the lessers, the lamented, unable to shake the "beasts of burden" status we were branded with when we got off the boat in shackles" (Belton). Because of this oppression stemming from the slave era, African Americans were essentially programmed to hold contempt for their own blackness. This is portrayed perfectly in Toni Morrison's The Bluest Eye about a young girl who so much associates her poverty and mistreatment as a human with being black, that she desperately yearns to be white, with blond hair and blue eyes. Morrison skillfully shows the link between this young girl's behavior and the images she is presented with in society: "It had begun with Christmas and the gift of dolls. The big, the special, the loving gift was always a big, blue-eyed Baby Doll. From the clucking sounds of adults I knew that the doll represented what they thought was my fondest wish. I was bemused with the thing itself, and the way it looked. What was I supposed to do with it? Pretend I was its mother?" (Morrison 19). And each time this little girl receives one of these dolls she habitually tears it apart, and then gets punished. In Plum Bun, Angela Murray doesn't have to yearn long, because she can "pass" for...

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