2. Hughes “Mulatto: A Tragedy of the Deep South” pg.476-Why is Robert’s conflict in the play one that is both internal and external? Given the time period, is there any way it could have been resolved differently that it is in the play?
Robert, the main character of Hughes’ play “Mulatto: A Tragedy of the Deep South”, suffers from both internal and external conflicts. However, both conflicts have the same root. What is meant here is the fact that his main problem is the fact of being born a mulatto that makes him a subject to racism from his social environment and leads to the split identity. In this respect, it is important to place emphasis on the fact that his origin was quite challengeable for the time he lived. To put it more precisely, he had a white father and an African American mother. The liaison between a white man and an African American woman was immoral a priori, but this liaison was always treated as a mere manifestation of entertainment from the part of a white man, which could never be taken seriously. Children, like Robert, could never be treated as equals by whites, but, at the same time, they were superior to African Americans because they were half-white. Hence, the internal conflict of Robert emerged because he could not find his cultural identity. He had not been equal to whites yet but he had not already been an African American. He was in-between and he could not afford such internal contradiction, which eventually outgrew into an external one leading to the conflict with his father and society. He could not afford being treated as an inferior to whites. On receiving his education, Robert was willing to be treated as equal. Naturally, on his return to home, where racism persisted and African Americans were treated as mere brutes, he could not afford such contradiction. As a result, the growing conflict leads to the murder of Robert’s father. Robert perceives his father as the manifestation of racism and the primary cause of his problems. In fact, his father was responsible for his internal and external conflict but social norms dominated over them and he could hardly act in a different way. His father proved to be unable to surpass racial barriers and violate existing social norms. Robert, in his turn, could not afford racism from the part of his own father. Hence, he killed him and, thus, violated existing social norms. Symbolically, the violation of the existing social norms and interracial relations, which he father was so afraid to violate, became fatal for Robert that proves that he could not act or be treated in a different way. What is meant here is the fact that he could not change his position and he was doomed to live as inferior to whites because any attempt to eliminate racial barriers ends up with lynching. However, Robert did not give in until the end. Even in the end of the play he decides to commit a suicide, instead of becoming a victim of lynching. This is his last protest against racism and existing social norms.
Bennett, G. “Wedding Day.” In Selected Short Stories. New York: Random House, 2009.
Grimke, A.W. “Goldie.” In The Selected Works of Angelina Weld Grimke. New York: Penguin Classics, 2008.
Hughes, L. Mulatto: A Tragedy of the Deep South. New York: St. Martin Press, 2007.