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Shift in Tragic Mulatto Tradition and Alternatives to Tragedying the Mixed-blood in Mulatto and Color Struck

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2015, 28(2), pp.141-163
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama

Jungman Park 1

1한국외국어대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

This paper surveys the development of tragic mulatto tradition in American literary history, especially focusing on the dramatic works. Black mulatto characters in this tradition, as established by white writers, are typically described as facing tragic death. Raised as white in aristocratic families and only realizing their black ancestry as adult, they become black overnight. Demoted to slave level, mulatto characters are robbed of the privilege including wealth, social status, and love they have enjoyed. In most cases, these mixed-blood protagonists tacitly and voluntarily obey the given destiny of death by killing themselves, having nowhere to fit, either the white or the black society. During the Harlem Renaissance era in the 1920s, tragic mulatto characters also appeared in dramatic works by African American playwrights. Unlike the earlier black mulatto stereotype, mixed-blood stage characters began to be portrayed as human being with psychological and sociological complexity. In some cases, black mulatto protagonists strongly express their rage against their mulatto status, which is best shown in Langston Hughes’s Mulatto (1931). Zora Neale Hurston’s Color Struck (1925) is especially worth noting because this play differentiates itself from Mulatto in terms of dealing with the death the mulatto characters would face. Suggesting an alternative to cut the chronic convention, created by white authors, that links the mulatto characters to the fate of tragic death, Color Struck bids farewell to the tragic mulatto tradition.

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