How did Suzella change during her stay with the Logans, and was it for the better in Let the Circle Be Unbroken?
Suzella enters the Logan family's lives to spare her the difficulty of her parents negotiating a divorce. She exits as sharply after her father, called Cousin Bud by the Logans, is endangered and humiliated by Stuart and his gang of ruffians. Suzella saw and learned much that had the potential to change her while she lived with the Logans. One way she was changed is that she discovered that questions of identity are harder to sort out than through others’ reactions to appearance.
While with the Logans, the white residents of the town assume she is white because of her appearance. She is given particular respect and attention by one very high-profile young man called Stuart. While he is nice to Suzella, he is not essentially good. This is testified to by his treatment of the black families: he likes to flirt with the black girls just to taunt them and make them feel dissatisfied and ashamed.
After it is discovered that Suzella fits the Southern legal definition of African American, she is scorned and humiliated more severely because of the way the white population was fooled by her. In addition, when her father returns to take her home, he is exposed as her father and they both find themselves in a dangerous confrontation with an angry and scornful Stuart:
[Stuart] kept his eyes on Suzella a moment longer, then turned to Cousin Bud. "That's an idea, Pierceson. We'll see jus' how light the n----r is...All right, n----r, go 'head. Get them clothes off."
These kinds of humiliations, shocks, reproaches, dangers do undeniably change a person. Is it a good change? The author doesn't go any further with Suzella and her father than to say:
Cousin Bud got out and went to the outhouse ... when he came back ..., he would not look directly at anyone. That evening, before dusk, he and Suzella left for New York.
The reader is therefore left to draw their own conclusions about whether these are changes for the better. My opinion is that these changes are not for the better. These changes came from violence--emotional, psychological and physical violence--these changes came from trauma to herself and to her father--and to herself again because she was forced to watch the violence of trauma administered to her father. These changes are damage. These changes are not for the better. It may be argued that it is better to lose one's naivete and gullibility. While this is true, the route of violent trauma is not the means through which to change one’s naivete and gullibility. Plain and simple. It is not the way.
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