“The Darkest Child” Analysis: The Subject of Racial Segregation in Delores Phillips’ Novel

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The plot of the book develops in 1958 in Pakersfield, Georgia. The timeline allows the author to draw a ghastly picture of life of a black family in rural American South in a time period when racial segregation has been prevailing. Racism in the society within small Georgian town, like a reflection of racism in the entire country, is one of the main subjects the book draws upon. The treatment and discrimination which the black characters face is evident in every interaction with a white person, from postal clerk to the town sheriff. Related to racism is the subject of abuse. This time however, it is not only the abuse African Americans endur at the hands of white people, but also the constant abuse with which Rozie treats all of her children, which varies from yelling at them to forcing daughters into prostitution, to allegedly killing her youngest offspring. Nevertheless, Dolores Phillips has chosen to write this novel in narrative style. In other words, she presents the series of events following one another in a logical sequence, just like telling a story. As seen throughout this novel, narrative style is useful in capturing certain topics by 'submerging' the reader in the situations, creating a feeling of a first-hand experience.

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The author uses a first-person narration, telling a story from the perspective of Tangy Mae, a thirteen year old black girl. This narrows the opportunity for the author to digress from the storyline to present her conclusions and morals of the story objectively, as everything in the story is supposed to present a flow of narrator's thought. On the other hand, it adds to the feeling of realism within the storyline. This is the function of the narrative Phillips uses so well – instead of bringing forth her own conclusions, she is rather conveying them to the readers, making readers reach them on their own. Submerging the reader into experiences of black family in the American South seems to be the main purpose of the author. Everyone who has read history textbooks on the topic knows how much worse off the black population was before the Civil Rights movement. There's a huge difference, however, between knowing the facts, no matter how bad they look, and feeling the experience. This is what Dolores Phillips intends to do, as she focuses on a small community amid a single family within this community. Moreover, in every instance of injustice and discrimination towards the characters of the book therefore becomes personified. Even the mental insanity of Rozelle and the imprint it leaves on all the children still keep in mind the fact that the way this family continues its existence is a direct result of segregation and racism so embedded in the U. S. society, especially at the time the story was told. The novel opens with describing the family of the thirteen-year old girl Tangy Mae Quinn, with much focus on her mother Rozelle. At the beginning of the novel, Rozelle, can be seen giving birth to her tenth fatherless child.

Here one can assume that Rozelle is clearly mentally insane. This alone makes her extremely manipulative and violent with all of her children. Even then, she particularly despises tangy Mae, because, herself not being 100% black, her children have various degrees of darkness in their skin, Tangy Mae, as the name suggests, being the darkest child in a literal sense, thus a strongest reminder for Rozelle of the cause of the injustices she faces a person of color. Being less despised child doesn't seem to help much, however, as Rozelle harms her children quite indiscriminately, in both physical and mental ways. She forces two oldest daughters into prostitution, a job, which she herself undertakes, along with cleaning houses for richer white families. She goes out of her way to make her children stay in the family and give away all the money they make. This is best seen in the situation where Martha Jean, one of the daughters, is taken away by a man who courts her. Martha Jean, the daughter who was deaf and mute, has once been stabbed by Rozelle with an ice pick, just so Rozelle could teach all children a lesson. Finally, Rozelle allegedly kills, or at best, is fatally neglect which causes death of her infant daughter Judy. Along this, Tangy Mae feels like an oddball, since she is not only the darkest child, but also the smartest. Despite her mother's obvious setbacks, she is determined to complete her high school education. She even takes advantage of the program which establishes a first non-segregated class where black children could study alongside whites.

The book culminates as Tangy manages to graduate against all odds and simultaneously her sister Tara tries to kill Rozelle by setting the house on fire but Rozelle manages to outsmart and kill her. As this has been a final straw, Tangy Mae escapes with another sister Laura. As mentioned before, profound display of racism and segregation black community in the American South faced is among the most compelling points the book makes. The author, however, goes beyond that and ends a pinch of optimism with evolving the main character, Tangy Mae. Looking at her upbringing, the fate of the girl seems obvious in the beginning, falling in the same vicious circle her entire family revolves in, experiencing prostitution, becoming a single mother, living in poverty etc. Despite that, regardless of how improbable it seemed, Tangy Mae continued to pursue education, thirsting for knowledge. At times even against her mother's will, she continues to study and towards the culmination of the book it pays off as she manages to graduate, while also escaping the family. This is likely to be an even stronger point of the narrative – defying circumstances and tirelessly pursuing a noble cause, one will eventually see his/her efforts paying off. The author displays thorough knowledge in both putting up the setting and developing the multitude of characters which are present in the book. This is largely due to two factors. First of all, Dolores Phillips is herself a woman of color born in Georgia, a Southern state of the U. S. , in 1950. As such, she was growing up witnessing the American society before Civil Rights movement grew in power and put Jim Crow laws to the end. Therefore, she was undoubtedly able to have some first-hand experience of the society she described, witnessing the daily injustices and racism which permeated the American South before 1960s and to the certain extent, is still evident today.

In addition to that, Phillips worked as a nurse in the psychiatric facility, dealing with mentally challenged patients, in particular victims of abuse. Her work experience has most likely contributed to the accurateness, with which she conveys the character of violent, mentally unstable Rozelle Quinn, abused and permanently scared children of hers and overall atmosphere of constant tension and breakdowns in family. All of the characters as well as the overall setting are narrated with great attention to detail, reflecting author's credibility on the topics she was writing about. “The Darkest Child” is strongly related to the course which deals with African diaspora. African American population in the United States falls under definition of diaspora, as Africans have been initially forcibly displaced from their homeland in Africa and brought to America as slaves. Afterwards, even after slavery was over, black population was forced to coexist together, bound with each other but separated from the rest of the US inhabitants, which ended up with them forming a sort of bubble, a society within the society. African experience is thoroughly captured by the author, focusing on a single black family, and, by extension, a community of the small town where the narrative takes place. Resistance of the black population to their mistreatment, which also finds its place among the discussions of the course, is also addressed in the book. This book should be without a doubt recommended to read, both to those who are interested in gaining knowledge about African diaspora and general audience. Dolores Phillips does an outstanding job creating a vast array of characters and capturing the atmosphere of the rural American south, which is poisoned by segregation, and which, at the same time, finds itself at a brink of change. Experiences of African Americans and their resistance to the state of affairs are shown at a personal level. Individual tragedies of the characters, however, serve as a reminder of how many families like this one existed, and still continue to exist like this due to the way African diaspora has been mistreated in the United States and across the world.

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“The Darkest Child” Analysis: The Subject of Racial Segregation in Delores Phillips’ Novel. (2020, July 15). WritingBros. Retrieved June 18, 2024, from https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/the-darkest-child-review/
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“The Darkest Child” Analysis: The Subject of Racial Segregation in Delores Phillips’ Novel. [online]. Available at: <https://writingbros.com/essay-examples/the-darkest-child-review/> [Accessed 18 Jun. 2024].
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