Themes and Meanings
To Williams, life appears to be filled with ambiguity and ambivalence, and time has the last word. History is cyclical; each ending is therefore a beginning. Max Reddick’s cry that he exists might be history’s apocalyptic proclamation to American racists that the wheel is turning and black is on its way back up, or it might be Max’s personal assertion that an individual life beats death by choosing a death that affirms the superior value of life as enacted in private passion. History and Max’s dedication as a writer, black man, and lover stand toe to toe in dialectic tension, but only time will tell what the new synthesis will bring. History has its ambiguity, and Max has his ambivalence, until a rare moment of clarity when history chooses Max and Max chooses history.
For Max, the clarity comes in answer to the question posed throughout the novel: Why is black life so difficult? On the historical level, the answer finally is that racist whites are in so many positions of power that they control any black life that comes to their attention. On the personal level, the answer is that Max is a man who cares and is driven to write. He must know, and to know is to die. Racism has attacked his life like a cancer, and he has helped it along, with his anal retentive analysis, until finally it has brought him to a loosening of his grasp on life. It then presents him with a heroic way of dying. It has thwarted him as a writer until finally, because he is a...
(The entire section is 468 words.)