Last Updated on July 29, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 353
(Harold) Athol Fugard, a white South African who grew up in the 1930s and 1940s, attempted to resist the racism that other white South Africans practiced at this time. However, at one time, Fugard forced his black servants to call him Master Harold and spit in the face of one servant whom he regarded as a close friend. Fugard, who later become one of South Africa’s most vocal writers against the racial segregation known as apartheid, recalled this less-than-proud incident in his life in his play ‘‘Master Harold’’ . . . and the Boys (1982).
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Some scholars believe that Mulatto was based on one of Hughes’s short stories entitled ‘‘Father and Son.’’ However, the story, which describes a conflict a mulatto son faces with his white father, did not appear until 1934, when The Ways of White Folks was published—after Hughes wrote Mulatto. The story serves as a good comparison to Mulatto since Hughes is developing a similar theme.
In The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother (1996), James McBride explores the identity crisis that many mulatto children face because of their mixed heritage. Unlike in Mulatto, the white parent in The Color of Water: A Black Man’s Tribute to His White Mother, McBride’s mother, accepts the mulatto child, battling racism, poverty, and other factors to do so.
Amy Tan’s The Joy Luck Club (1989) details the problems that Chinese American women face when trying to reconcile both their Chinese and American heritages. Set in San Francisco in the 1980s, the majority of the book is told in flashbacks and is organized into sixteen separate tales that explore what it is like to be Chinese American. All of the stories are narrated by either a Chinese-born mother or her American-born daughter.
Richard Wright’s Native Son (1940), a classic novel about the challenges faced by African Americans, concerns the story of Bigger Thomas, a young African American man in 1930s Chicago. The racism and poverty that he experiences leads to his unintentional murder of a white woman. After this act, Thomas finds that he has very few options left.