The Sellout

by

Paul Beatty

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The Sellout: Chapter 18 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In November, the narrator turns his attentions to growing a potato crop. He knows that he is unlikely to be successful because California is too warm. To make matters worse, the segregation project becomes difficult when he gets “segregation block.” He and Hominy are digging together and trying to come up with ideas. Hominy suggests concentration camps, but the narrator replies that it’s already “been done.” Hominy then suggests an apartheid system, and then an Indian-style caste system. The narrator appreciates the help, even if none of it is useful.
In this passage, the narrator has an experience similar to writer’s block, but which affects his plans for segregation. This is amusing because it suggests that segregation is a process requiring creative and innovative thinking rather than a straightforward or natural process of separating the races. We might assume that racist acts are a matter of almost instinctual cruelty and hate, but implementing them into policy actually requires concentration and innovation.
Themes
Progress vs. Regress Theme Icon
Blackness, Origins, and Home Theme Icon
Stereotypes and Absurdity Theme Icon
Criminality, Authority, and the Law Theme Icon
While digging, the narrator is careful to avoid the spot where his father is buried. Nothing has grown in that area of land either before or after the narrator’s father’s death. The narrator surveys the land, each section divided by crop. He realizes that as a farmer, he’s a “natural segregationist.” He asks Hominy what day it is, and on learning it’s Sunday tells him that he is going to the meeting of the Dum Dum Donut Intellectuals.
At this point the meaning of this part of the novel, “Apples and Oranges,” becomes clear. The phrase “Apples and Oranges” is often used to denote things that are fundamentally different and therefore incompatible and even incomparable. Just as the narrator separates his fruit crops, so will he attempt to racially separate humans.
Themes
Progress vs. Regress Theme Icon
Blackness, Origins, and Home Theme Icon
Stereotypes and Absurdity Theme Icon
Criminality, Authority, and the Law Theme Icon