The Pathology of Whitenes in Pym, by Mat Johnson Essay

The Pathology of Whitenes in Pym, by Mat Johnson Essay

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Mat Johnsons novel, Pym challenges readers not only to view his work with a new set of eyes but also the work of all American literature with the understanding that the idea of Whiteness still has a very strong power over literature today. It is unfortunate that in today’s society, the pathology of Whiteness still holds a very strong presence in literary world. Literature from American authors versus literature from African American authors still continues to be segregated and handled with two different sets of criteria. Johnson’s novel engages in different aspects of the argument presented in Toni Morrison’s work entitled Playing in the Dark: Whiteness and the Literary Imagination. One of the main ideals that Pym engages in is the thought that “…a figuration of impenetrable whiteness … surfaces in American literature whenever Africanist presence is engaged” (29). Through the character Chris Jaynes, Johnson’s novel focuses much attention on the Whiteness seen in the literary world and how it still affects literature today. Mat Johnson’s Pym addresses Morrison’s argument by challenging the reader to identify the pathology of whiteness as well as encourages readers not to only identify the problem but try to find new ways to combat it.
The character Chris Jaynes is one who does not take no for an answer and stands true to his beliefs. One of the ideals Jaynes feels strongly about is trying to find a cure for the pathology of Whiteness. Jaynes makes the statement that “What I discovered during my studies in Poe’s and other early Americans’ text was the intellectual source of racial Whiteness…Here was the twisted mythic underpinning of modern racial thought that could never before be dismantled because we were standing on them” (8...


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...it but try to make a change. Through Chris Jaynes, Johnson expresses to his readers the importance of taking a stance on the issue of Whiteness by making it a very prominent ideal in his novel. Johnson furthers his agreement against Whiteness by expressing the fact that the issue not only needs to be identified but that there needs to be more of a push to change the issue. Sticking to the normal ways of trying to fix the issue of Whiteness, such as using a diversity committee, are no longer acceptable in the fight against Whiteness as it has proved to be unsuccessful. Instead Mat Johnson challenges the reader to notice the practices that keep American literature segregated and consider how effective the methods put in place truly are in advancing American literature.



Works Cited

Johnson, Mat. Pym: A Novel. New York: Spiegel & Grau Trade Paperbacks, 2012. Print.

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