Summary (Masterplots II: African American Literature, Revised Edition)
dem’s unusual title and its lower-case format are a revealing indication of the author’s intentions and orientation. The connotations of a certain vocal tonality and a certain grade of education that the title word conveys are far removed from the white, middle-class milieu in which most of the action takes place. The combination of lexical and auditory element in “dem” also indicates an attitude that, if not necessarily disrespectful, reduces to the status of a common noun material that is generally accorded the distinctiveness of a proper noun. This attitude not only embraces the realm of manners, which occupies the foreground of the novel; it also is the basis for the larger social, cultural, and political perspectives that the story entails, creating them initially by inference but ultimately in fully realized terms, an “us” that exists as an equal and opposite human entity to “dem.”
The provocative undertones of dem’s title are developed in a number of ways in the course of the story. The very setting of the main narrative interest, a well-appointed apartment in Manhattan, is one that does not occur frequently in African American fiction, and the family that lives in the apartment is equally unusual, simply by belonging to the white, professional, upper middle class. Despite the deftness with which personal milieu and general social context are established, the author is more interested in what lies underneath the...
(The entire section is 974 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of dem Summary. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!