Who is the protagonist in Mulatto?

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The main character in “Mulatto,” a poem by Langston Hugues, is nameless. He merely calls himself “your son” when addressing the white man. All we know about him comes from the rest of the poem.

We know that this son is the child of a white man and a Black woman. Although it is not explicitly stated, we can infer that the woman did not have a choice in whether or not to conceive—the white man simply uses her “juicy” body like "a toy.” Therefore, we are led to understand that this young man, the unnamed “Mulatto,” is a child of rape or at least sexual coercion.

He is further described as “yellow” and compared to the yellow stars in the Southern sky. The boy’s mother gives birth to him, claims him, and raises him. He is referred to as a “little yellow bastard boy.” Although his father is white, he is not recognized at all by white men. “Git on back there in the night, you ain’t white,” they say. Further, they add, “Naw, you ain’t my brother. Niggers ain’t my brother,” despite the knowledge that, evidently, his father was indeed a white man. Any attempt the boy made to enter that world was soundly rebuffed.

This is a tragic character. He does not truly belong in his mother’s world but neither is he welcomed in his so-called father’s. Though the boy tries to claim a place as the son of a white man, he remains unacknowledged. As a protagonist, we do not know much about him except this sad history. Everything else he might be is swept under the table, overwhelmed by the challenge of finding an identity.

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