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Caucasia by Danzy Senna
Transcript of Caucasia by Danzy Senna
A Brief Summary
The Effect of Color on Identity
"My father had told me once that [the subway] lines were racial codes. He said green led to Jews in Brookline and Newton. Red to Cambridge Wasps. The blue and the purple to the suburbs, where the Irish and Italian townies lived. And the orange line, he had told me, led to Chocolate City" (296).
Feel as a part of a group based on color, leads to formation of a concrete identity
Leads to Birdie's identity crisis in which she doesn't fit in anywhere due to her half-black/half-white race
What is the significance of "motion" in this novel?
The Significance of Invisibility
Birdie must constantly change her identity
Conflicted between whether to stay true to herself, or to escape into the life of her alter ego
"What was the point of surviving if you had to disappear?" (8)
Conforming is easy, but standing out is difficult
"...into the world of women without names, without pasts, without documents. Women who didn't exist" (135).
"In those years, I felt myself to be incomplete-- a gray blur, a body in motion, forever galloping toward completion--half a girl...and for me there was comfort in that state of incompletion, a sense that as long as we kept moving, we could go back to what we had" (137)
Birdie wishes to return to her old life where her family is not segregated by racial divisions
Until she reaches that unity, she will forever be incomplete, only moving toward completion as she looks for her dark skinned father and sister
Why? Because she is a "A gray blur"
Birdie is a mix of white and black and does not not where her identity stands. She is incomplete and always searching
Lit Crit by J. Gomez: her "racial ambiguity" is the cause of her inability to be accepted
Literary Lens: New Historicism
"There was a television inside the principal's office, and we all crowded around it to watch the news, the image grainy and crackling on the small screen - one lone black being pulled from his Volkswagen only to disappear under a cloud of white fists" (39).
During the Civil Rights Movement
Discrimination and racism based on skin color
ex Samantha Taper: is black in New Hampshire, accused of being a slut by whites even though they have no evidence
People relate to each other based on ethnicity/skin color, form identities based on this
Literary Lens: Marxist
The colored race represents the inferior, oppressed, working class
Caucasian represents the superior, aristocratic clas
The blacks fight to achieve equality during the Civil Rights Movement/Black Power Movement (parallel to the Marxist idea that the working class will revolt against the aristocratic class)
There is a conflict in the "lower class" on the means of how to achieve equality (violence vs. persuasion/logic)
Redbone (the fighter) vs. Deck (the writer)
"What the #$@% do you think you're (Redbone) holding my (Deck's) daughter over those guns?" (16)
Literary Lens: Psychoanalysis
"I wondered, as I passed the clear abandoned lake...abandoning parts of myself that I no longer wanted, in search of some part that had escaped me." (289)
Id (Desires): Birdies yearns to conform to a local population in order to find acceptance
Superego (Morality): Birdie understands she has to find her sister and father whom she has long been separated from even though she would have to go against her mother
Ego (Mediator): Birdie needs to choose between her yearning for acceptance and her family
Birdie: main character half Caucasian and half African-American
Character development: Birdie is impacted by racial discrimination which causes her trouble with her identity
Story focus: Birdie struggles with race relations and she is separated from family members
Climax: Birdie is separated from her father and sister due to an unexplained danger
Resolution: Birdie is reunited with family