Nancy D. Jimenez
September 20th 2013
Mulatto: A Play Portraying Life In The South
In his two act play Mulatto, Hughes portraits the life of southern blacks in the 1930’s and their struggle to be acknowledged as equals. The play describes a white man torn between two worlds; a black woman suffering, like any mother would, over the misbehavior of her child, and finally a black man in the quest for acknowledgement. And the series of events that lead to the death of the two men. It shows specially the struggle of a young man in the middle of a clash of two ethnic groups. We can also see Hughes reflected in his character Robert.
As the play starts the first ...view middle of the document...
When the Colonel is mad at Robert she tries to calm him down by telling him, “He don’t mean nothing-just smart and young and kinder careless, Colonel tom, like ma mother said you used to be when you was eighteen” (1256). With this she tries to make Norwood see him self in Robert, but this has no effect in Norwood because no southern white would dare to compare himself with a black man. Cora tries to keep all of her children safe and we se her appealing to Robert, to try and change his ways. As she shows us when she talking to Robert, “Why don’t you mind me, son? Ain’t I told you and told you not to come in that front door, never? I believes you wants to get us all killed or run away or something awful like that” (1262). We see her trying to make Robert understand that his actions not only have consequences for him but for all of them.
Finally we have Robert a young black man who is not happy with the way he is treated. He is caught in between two cultures, and looking to be treated differently. We see this in the discussion he has with Mr. Norwood. Where Norwood tells Robert to talk right but Robert asked what that meant to what Norwood states, “I mean talk to me like a nigger should to a white man.” To that Robert answers “Oh! But I’m not a nigger, Colonel Tom, I’m your son” (1266-1267). With this we can tell that Mr. Norwood is trying to keep Robert out of trouble, but with Robert’s response we can see clearly what Robert wants, and that is for Norwood to recognize he is his father and to back him up in front of everyone else. Something that we know would not happen in the south during this time period. This desire of Robert ends up costing him his father’s life and his life as well. Although in a way he had lost his father along time ago. That time that he called Norwood dad and he beat him, from that day Robert’s love for his father died and the respect as well (1267).
Robert wants to act and be treated like the son of Mr. Norwood should, as he points out to his brother William during his discussion about the front door. William starts nagging Robert about him using the front door instead of the back door like he should, “Oh, usin’ de front door like de white folks, heh? You gwine do that once too much.” To this Robert answers him stating that he is only half black, “I wouldn’t say so. Besides you and me’s only half-coons, anyhow, big boy. And I’m gonna act like my white half, not my black half. Get me, kid?” (Act 1 lines 110-116) Because of this Robert ends up getting in trouble all the time. He demands to be treated like the son of a white powerful man should, but people treat him as they treat everyone with his skin color.
Finally his desire to be treated differently comes to a horrible ending. Robert and Mr. Norwood have a heated argument over how Robert is supposed to behave, an argument that gets out of hand when Robert chokes Mr. Norwood to death (1268). This is the point of no return for Robert, is the point...