What is your response to the narrator's remark,"The line between colored and nigger was not always clear; subtle and telltale signs threatened to erode it, and the watch had to be constant"? The...

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Morrison presents the reader with a terrifying world where your skin colour determines everything about your life. It is interesting, and also disturbing, to see how those who were merely "coloured" as opposed to "black" saw themselves as superior to those who were "blacks." Geraldine, a coloured woman herself, teaches Junior how to distinguish between these two separate categories, as the following quote suggests:

His mother did not like him to play with niggers. She had explained to him the difference between colored people and niggers. They were easily identifiable. Colored people were neat and quiet; niggers were dirty and loud.

Note the extremely simplistic and prejudiced way in which Geraldine taught Junior the difference between himself and the black children around him. Geraldine therefore perpetuates a racial hierarchy through teaching this to her son. However, as the quote in this question suggests, the dividing line between these two supposedly discrete states of being "black" and being "coloured" was not actually as clearly defined as Geraldine would like to pretend, and therefore, "the watch had to be constant." To maintain their position of superiority as coloured characters, characters such as Geraldine and those of her ilk have to constantly maintain the boundary and ensure that there are no breaches. The fact that they had to maintain it constantly indicates just how fragile the difference was.


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