The Blacker the Berry is essentially the story of one character, Emma Lou Morgan, who is a victim both of color prejudice and of her own foolishness and self-delusion. All the other characters in the novel are secondary to Emma Lou and are important only in relation to her and to the theme of the novel.
Certainly, it is not Emma Lou’s fault that she was born black into a family that considers itself a “blue vein circle” and that aims to grow whiter with each generation. It is not surprising that, having been scorned throughout her childhood, she has a negative self-image and therefore is more vulnerable than someone who feels secure.
Although she is the victim of prejudice, Emma Lou is herself a snob. At college, she tries to distance herself from the ebullient Hazel Mason because she thinks that Hazel’s bright clothes, loud voice, and defiant use of black English mark her as an inferior. Later, in Harlem, Emma Lou exhibits her own color prejudice when she drops the dark-skinned but decent John in order to throw herself at the parasitic Alva and the unintelligent Benson Brown, whose only real attraction is the color of their skin.
Emma Lou’s snobbery is only part of a larger problem, her habit of living in worlds she has invented rather than in the real world. This is illustrated by her experience with Weldon Taylor. First, she imagines that she is about to marry him; then, with just as little basis in reality,...
(The entire section is 573 words.)