By Diana Adesola Mafe
Combined Race Stereotypes in South African and American Literature examines the preferred literary stereotype, the tragic mulatto, from a transnational point of view. Mafe considers the ways that particular South African and American writers have used this arguable literary personality to problem the good judgment of racial categorization.
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Additional info for Mixed Race Stereotypes in South African and American Literature: Coloring Outside the (Black and White) Lines
But stereotypes are themselves ﬂuid characterizations rather than static iterations or the same ﬁgure being repeated ad inﬁnitum like a paper doll chain. Cultural theorist Stuart Hall argues that stereotyping is a multilayered and hierarchical representational practice, which is usually (or initially) deployed by a dominant social group. ”37 Stereotypes are never entirely accurate because they are simplistic representations. But stereotypes are intended to function as recognizable stand-ins for larger social bodies.
Although she has moments of passionate deﬁance, G o d’s S t e p c h i l d r e n 43 such moments are short-lived and have no bearing on the grand scheme of things, namely tragedy. Elmira gives birth to the ﬁnal tragic mulatto character, a son named Barry who can easily pass as white. Only at this late point in the novel does Millin imagine a half-caste character with any complexity. Although she maintains the authoritative and ethnographic tone of her narrator, Millin permits Barry a self-reﬂective and thoughtful manner that is unprecedented in the novel.
Much like Child, Millin was a proliﬁc writer with a memorable three-part name who published some 30 books in her lifetime, many of them dealing with the theme of miscegenation. But the similarities arguably end there. Child was a nineteenth-century abolitionist who, whether successfully or not, used the trope as an antislavery device. By contrast, the twentieth-century Millin advocates neither racial equality nor racial uplift in her stereotypical depictions of mixedness. Rather, her ﬁction, often written in a pseudoscientiﬁc narrative voice, implies a segregationist agenda.