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portray a black character as a human type; and (b) they look upon his condition of social degradation as being "natural" to his inferior character, rather than resulting from the racist criminality of the American social system.

The lines of the contemporary stereotype have been softened with embellishments of good grammar and Ivy League accouterments, but Nigger Jim-whether he is Mark Twain's simpering slave, Faulkner's obstinate Lucas Beauchamp and "matriarch" Dilsey, or William Styron's organically religious Nat Turner-remains the prototype of the white writer's concept of "The Negro."

Indeed, it can be said with tragic certainty that, except for the contributions of black writers, modern American literature has yet to produce a black character endowed with the virtues common to all human kind: capacity for love, outrage, integrity, dignity.

Styron's novel, on the surface, would seem to overcome this weakness from the way he approaches his material, particularly in form and structure. But the first-person narrative of a slave recounting the vicissitudes of his life in a very literary prose destroys whatever plausibility his Nat Turner might have had. The method has the effect of reducing the character to an abstraction-a kind of literary conduit through which the author essays his own deepest feelings about the white man's emotionally-charged involvement with the black man. But with all the narrative's sorrowful tone, the pathos has a hollow, disquieting ring. 

How can the reader become, in any way, emotionally involve with a character whom he knows to be a mere device?

When Nat Turner speaks, for instance, of an "exquisitely sharpened hatred for the white man" being "an emotional not difficult for Negroes to harbor," the reader is emotionally disengaged from the import of such words coming from the mouth of a slave, however literate and articulate he might be. And there can be no reality to a slave who analyzes that: "this hatred does not abound in every Negro's soul; it relies upon too many mysterious and hidden patterns of life and chance to flourish luxuriantly everywhere. Real pure and obdurate that no sympathy, no human warmth, no flicker of compassion can make the faintest nick...upon the...surface of its being-is not common to all Negroes..."

And why is our slave so concerned about "pure" hatred? Because, in order to make good on his "divine mission to kill all the white people in Southampton," he has to find a band of "Negroes in whom


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