The Black Prince Themes (Shirley Ann Grau)

Shirley Ann Grau

Themes and Meanings

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“The Black Prince,” published originally under the title “The Sound of Silver,” was Grau’s first story to be published in a professional literary journal. When the collection of stories The Black Prince, and Other Stories appeared in 1955, it made quite an impression on both critics and the general public, selling out its first printing in two weeks. The title story of the collection, as is typical of many of Grau’s short stories, hovers uneasily between mythic legend and simplistic melodrama. Thus, it is not easy to determine whether it is a serious experiment with archetypes of universal primitive experience, or whether it is simply a commercial exploitation of stereotypes of the American black experience. The story certainly depends on enough clichés about black life to be uncomfortable reading for readers in a post-civil rights era. The black characters in the story are driven by no other emotions than sexual desire and physical violence. The men drink, cut off ears with razors, and pursue women. The women get pregnant, have abortions, and continue to pursue the men.

Stanley Albert Thompson seems to embody the classic black male wish fulfillment, at least as seen from a white point of view. Although he never works, he has enough money to buy fancy clothes, sport an expensive watch and ring, drink, and attract women. He has a mysterious sexual aura that immediately intimidates and alienates the men, even as it acts as an...

(The entire section is 463 words.)