Style and Technique

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Last Updated on May 5, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 265

The story is the monologue of a first-person narrator, related in a conversational style with some humor. Nat intentionally tells the reader everything he knows in a tone that varies from self-deprecating and joking to defensive, passionate, or matter of fact. He is unaware, however, of how much he unintentionally reveals about himself and of how certain of his weaknesses dominate, placing his good intentions in the background.

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As a convincing and largely credible narrator, Nat describes in realistic detail the New York that visitors expect and fear—a city in which youths rob liquor stores, innocent people are mugged, landlords squeeze money out of their ghetto tenants, and altruism is suspect. The focus is on the black ghetto, seen by an outsider, a Jew who is himself similarly stereotyped by the larger society.

The naïve, even unrealistic suggestion of color in the title becomes a metaphor for the racial identification that dominates the story’s images. Just as blackness in a literal sense hinders vision and therefore calls for contrast, contrast between black people and white people becomes Malamud’s technique for connecting plot with theme. Most of the story’s episodes build around contrasting views generated by racial differences; in one way or another, each episode represents a larger societal issue. Images of blood parallel those of blackness and are equally powerful in conveying the philosophical issue undergirding the story: Nat’s growing awareness of “one human color . . . the color of blood.”

With these techniques, an apparently rambling personal reminiscence is transformed into a skillfully controlled journey toward a universal human truth.

Historical Context

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Ghettoes
After both World Wars, blacks from the Southern United States migrated north in large numbers. Most were only able to find low-paying, unskilled labor positions which only provided enough money to live in crowded, inner-city slums known as ghettoes. These urban neighborhoods, like the one where Ornita lives in the story, were characterized by their dilapidated buildings and high crime rates. The ghettoes were segregated by race. In "Black Is My Favorite Color,’’ Nat, a white man, owns a business in the ghetto but does not live there, where people are often so poor that extended families live together in one cramped residence—as is the case with Ornita, who lives with her brother's family. Instead, Nat has an apartment by himself in a nicer section of the city, where he even pays a black cleaning woman to come in and take care of his place once a week.

The Civil Rights Movement Begins
Although the tensions of racial inequality had been brewing for a long time, they came to a head on December 1,1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, when an African-American woman named Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat, in the front of a bus, to a white man. This simple act of defiance—it was against Montgomery's law for a black person to sit in the forward section of a city bus—got Parks arrested and jailed. The resulting outcry from the African-American community included a boycott of Montgomery city buses that drew national attention. In addition, Parks's bravery inspired Reverend Martin Luther King Jr., whose passionate speeches in Montgomery earned him a national reputation.

"I Have a Dream’’
Following his success in Montgomery, Reverend King traveled the United States for the next several years, giving speeches and spreading his message of nonviolent protest, a method of protest he had learned from studying the teachings of India's spiritual leader, Mahatma Gandhi. In the fall of 1963, King organized a civil rights march on Washington, where he delivered his famous...

(The entire section contains 2761 words.)

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