Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

My Amputations is a metafictional novel questioning the nature of fiction and the perception of reality. It combines bildungsroman techniques with the picaresque tradition of an episodic narrative about the travels and adventures of a rogue or criminal. My Amputations is also postmodern in its self-reflexive concern with the fictional depiction of reality. The novel experiments with characters, plot, and action by refusing to use realist or naturalistic techniques. Embedded in its surrealistic flow of disconnected episodes are references to the process of fiction, the conflict between truth and imagination, and the relation of the author to the text.

My Amputations is written in the third person by an unreliable narrator who refuses to conform to the dramatic verities of time, place, and action. Mason represents himself through his work in progress as an unreliable character whose dreams contradict the narrative presented in the main body of the text. Since readers have no idea who Mason is masquerading as, if he in fact is masquerading, readers are often bewildered. The last half of the novel confirms Mason’s growing despair at his quest for meaning and identity. Mason is self-educated and gives many lectures, yet readers know little about what he says or thinks or writes. His growing paranoia focuses on his fellowship agreement, his search for an impostor, and suspicion of the System. The abstract quality of his journey further questions the traditional linear narrative.

The portrait that emerges is of a very troubled African American man torn in two directions. His...

(The entire section is 663 words.)