What does Mr. Norton represent?

Mr. Norton, a wealthy white benefactor and trustee of the college, represents white power, privilege, and illusion.

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Mr. Norton, a white trustee of the college, represents white power and privilege as well as white illusion. He is a wealthy, blue-eyed New Englander who wears custom-made white shoes with black trim that remind that narrator of a glove. He believes it is his "destiny" and life mission to support the college.

He represents the kind of white benefactor Dr. Bledsoe wants to keep away from any idea of the reality of Black life. Mr. Norton is the kind of man who supports the college because it fulfills his notion of helping Black people. However, the college trains Black people for such subordinate roles as mechanics. It helps them just enough to allow them to feel that white people are on their side and that they are getting ahead, but it will keep them blind to the way that places like the college are simply reinforcing the status quo. Mr. Norton himself is blind to what he doing.

Norton ends up shocked when the narrator takes him beyond the dreamy confines of the campus, and he is confronted with the reality of a Black man's incest (feeding into his own repressed desires) and the vet, who tells him the truth about white people and the college. The vet says of him and of the narrator,

Poor stumblers, neither of you can see the other. To you he is a mark on the score-card of your achievement, a thing and not a man; a child, or even less—a black amorphous thing.

Norton ends up angered by his encounters with reality, and the narrator pays for not maintaining the carefully crafted illusion the college projects. He pays the price by getting expelled.

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