The Kind of Light That Shines on Texas

by Reginald McKnight

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What does the narrator value in The Kind of Light that Shines on Texas?

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In the title short-story of The Kind of Light that Shines on Texas, Clint is essentially embarrassed by the color of his skin, and he is embarrassed by his racial identity. Throughout the story, Clint is judgmental towards his other classmates. Like his white counterparts in his classroom, he judges other people by their appearance. That doesn’t necessarily mean he only judges them by their skin color; however, he is very hard on the students in his class that are African American like himself. As readers, we begin to see that Clint values appearance over character. Clint desires a sense of anonymity and does not want to draw attention to himself or his appearance. He values the idea of appearances.

When the story opens, Clint immediately begins describing one of the other two African Americans in his classroom. The opening of the story goes, “I never liked Marvin Pruitt.” Clint then immediately says that he never knew him, but he did not like him. When Clint lists the reasons for why he does not like Marvin, they all have to do with how he presents himself. One gets the sense that psychologically, Clint projects his self-loathing onto the other African Americans in the class. Clint’s shame in his own appearance and identity is why he hopes for anonymity and to be avoided rather than have his appearance scrutinized. The story only suggests that this may change towards the end of the short story, when Clint is protected from the classroom bully by Marvin. As readers, we begin to hope that Clint changes his value system.

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