The Sellout

by

Paul Beatty

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The Sellout: Chapter 19 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
There are only about ten people at the meeting. Foy has recently been in the news because his many children have decided to sue him for the anguish caused by his frequent media appearances. The narrator concludes that there is “no doubt the Dum Dum Donut Intellectuals [are] dying.” He sits down at the back next to King Cuz, and reads that ever since the appearance of the Wheaton Academy, housing prices and graduation rates have risen.
The narrator’s aim of bringing back Dickens through segregation is working, with the added bonus that the city is becoming more prosperous and successful. Following the typical hero/villain dynamic, as the narrator’s fortunes rise, Foy’s fall.
Themes
Progress vs. Regress Theme Icon
Blackness, Origins, and Home Theme Icon
Criminality, Authority, and the Law Theme Icon
Foy begins speaking, saying that he has a “secret weapon” he plans to use against the Wheaton Academy. He holds up his own rewritten novel, Tom Soarer, announcing that it is “a WME, a Weapon of Mass Education!” In desperation, Foy has called three famous African American leaders to join the meeting, whom the narrator will not name for legal reasons. Then an argument emerges among the members about whether they would rather be born in the United States or in Africa. The narrator is furious that anyone would suggest slavery was worth it just so he can now enjoy the luxuries of contemporary American life.
The conversation about slavery at the Dum Dum Donut Intellectuals meeting again brings up complex questions surrounding progress versus regress. The Intellectuals’ argument that although slavery was awful, they would rather have been born in the United States than Africa, suggests that slavery was, in some perverse sense, part of a broader narrative of progress—an idea the narrator finds abhorrent.
Themes
Progress vs. Regress Theme Icon
Blackness, Origins, and Home Theme Icon
Related Quotes
After one of the Intellectuals calls Dickens a “hellhole,” King Cuz leaps to the city’s defense. The narrator is surprised to hear Cuz speak for the first time at a meeting. The narrator takes his father’s picture from the wall and slips out. While he is untying his horse, Foy comes out and gives him a pitying look. The narrator asks Foy if he owns the old, racist Little Rascals movies; Foy angrily shakes his head in response. Foy places a copy of Tom Soarer in the narrator’s saddlebag. It is inscribed: “To the Sellout, Like father, like son…”
The Dum Dum Donut Intellectuals claim to fight on behalf of black people, yet in reality they are classist and disdainful of much of the black population—as is revealed by the comment comparing Dickens to a “hellhole.” It is now clear that Foy’s nicknaming of the narrator is deeply ironic, since it is actually Foy himself who is the sellout.
Themes
Blackness, Origins, and Home Theme Icon
Stereotypes and Absurdity Theme Icon
The narrator rides off, annoyed. He realizes that even if he does achieve his goal of bringing Dickens back, no one will greet the news with “fanfare or fireworks.” He realizes that the only reward he will get for bringing back the city is “Hominy’s wide smile.”
Bringing back Dickens might be progress, but it is a rather unexciting kind: returning to the way things already were in the first place. At the same time, the narrator will achieve his ongoing goal of making Hominy happy.
Themes
Progress vs. Regress Theme Icon
Blackness, Origins, and Home Theme Icon
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