Although Lila Mae Watson is portrayed as fearless, how do her fears and experiences influence her self-confrontation?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Lila Mae's experiences and influences help influence her self- confrontation by giving her further resolve and understanding.  As a result, she becomes more grounded in her identity and secure in the belief systems that underscore it.

From the outset, it becomes clear that Lila Mae has to endure self-confrontation.  Her position as ''the first colored woman in the Department of Elevator Inspectors" demands that she be secure in her ideas and understanding.  At the same time, Llia Mae is an Intuitionist, constantly at odds with the Empiricists.  This intellectual battle between both groups causes Lila Mae to have to engage in increased self- confrontation, as she must examine the levels of her own belief system. As an Intuitionist, she endures much in way of mockery:

"'You aren't one of those voodoo inspectors, are you? Don't need to see anything, you just feel it, right?' . . . She says, 'Intuitionist.' . . The super grins. 'If that's the game you want to play,' he says, 'I guess you got me on the ropes.' There are three twenty-dollar bills in his oily palm." 

The idea of what Lila Mae does as an example of "voodoo" is applicable to both professional levels as well as personal ones.  Yet, Lila Mae does not decrease her resolve to her value systems.  The self- confrontation aspect of her identity continues to engage in self- analysis, believing in what she does and in who she is.  Lila Mae's entry into New York is one ushered by her being an "independent-minded newcomer to the city."  These conditions help to highlight how Lila Mae believes in who she is and her own value systems to underscore her commitment to them.

The experiences she undergoes as a result of her belief systems did not result in a lack of commitment in self- confrontation.  In the wake of Elevator number eleven's crash inside the Fanny Briggs Memorial Building, Lila Mae does not reject her value systems.  While she is pitted against the elevator industrial complex, Lila Mae does not relent in pursuing her value system of Intuitionism. This applies to her commitment to being who she is as a woman of color. She does not capitulate to those in the position of power simply in the name of advancement.  

At the same time, her experiences of abduction, intimidation, and harassment do not move Llia Mae into a position of decreased self- confrontation.  Llia Mae' "doubles down" on believing in her professional and personal senses of self as a result of her fears and confrontations.  For this reason, Lila Mae embraces a transformational vision of the future.  It is a vision that moves away from "White people's reality, which "is built on what things appear to be -- that's the business of Empiricism. They judge them on how they appear when held up to the light, the wear on the carriage buckle, the stress fractures in the motor casing.''  Due to her increased self- confrontation and a belief in who she is, Lila Mae is able to advocate a vision of what can be as opposed to what merely is.

Read the study guide:
The Intuitionist

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