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Erasure Themes

There are several themes in the novel Erasure by Percival Everett. The main themes are stereotyping and race, identity, and family.

Stereotyping and Race: The main character, Thelonius Ellison, is an educated man—an English professor and writer—who is basically forced to write stories about poor, underprivileged African Americans who grew up in the ghetto. This is because these are the kinds of texts written by African Americans that are valued, rather than educated texts. When another author's book becomes a best seller, a book about the type of African American experience that audiences currently value, Ellison realizes that, if he wants to find success as a writer, he will have to "sell out" and write these kinds of books.

Identity: Ellison tells the reader about himself at the beginning of the book. He says he does not see race, but he is considered black by society. He is an educated and smart man, a graduate of Harvard. Ellison knows who he is but becomes ashamed when he has to create a pseudonym in order to stomach writing a book that will be successful.

Family: Ellison decides to publish the book he is ashamed of in order to provide for his mother who has Alzheimer's disease.

Themes and Meanings

(Literary Essentials: African American Literature)

The concept of “erasure” is central to Percival Everett’s novel, since each of its characters offers evidence of some form of personal deletion. Ironically enough, for example, the main character achieves his greatest success, both critical and popular, when he assumes the identity of a fictitious alter ego. Much of the poignancy of the novel is derived from the main character’s belated attempts to reconnect himself to his parents, his siblings, and his racial identity, only to be left in the end with an overwhelming sense of displacement.

The novel’s other characters also offer evidence of erasure....

(The entire section is 461 words.)