The Sellout

by

Paul Beatty

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The Sellout: Chapter 20 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
The narrator admits that he secretly found re-segregating Dickens quite fun and “sort of empowering.” He and Hominy would go around town sticking up signs that read “COLORED ONLY.” Sometimes the narrator would dress in his father’s lab coat, explaining that he was from the Federal Department of Racial Injustice and that he was carrying out an experiment. He invents the idea for “Whitey Week,” a 30 minute-long celebration of white people’s contributions to “the world of leisure.”
At first it seems completely strange and perverse that the narrator should find re-segregating Dickens empowering. However, the key difference between his acts here and the historical practice of segregation in the America is that this time, the segregation policies are being instituted by—and remain under the control of—black people.
Themes
Progress vs. Regress Theme Icon
Blackness, Origins, and Home Theme Icon
Stereotypes and Absurdity Theme Icon
Criminality, Authority, and the Law Theme Icon
The narrator has gained permission to re-segregate the hospital, which is named after Martin Luther King, Jr., because the director was a friend of his father’s. In the dark of night, the narrator and Hominy paint “The Bessie Smith Trauma Center” on the glass doors and put up a placard saying “WHITE-OWNED AMBULANCE UNITS ONLY.” The narrator is paranoid about getting caught, and although Hominy assures him that nobody cares about what black people do, the narrator insists that this has changed in the internet age. Now, on top of everything else, black people are robbed of their own privacy.
This passage draws attention to the fact that the internet does not make a substantial appearance in the book. Indeed, there is an absence of many forms of technology; in the span of the book, there is hardly a single instance in which a character writes an email, sends a text message, or even makes a phone call. This gives a sense of time collapsing or going backwards, which contributes to the progress versus regress theme.
Themes
Progress vs. Regress Theme Icon
Blackness, Origins, and Home Theme Icon
Stereotypes and Absurdity Theme Icon
Criminality, Authority, and the Law Theme Icon
Later, the narrator hears that his amendments to the hospital have made the patients more “proactive” about their healthcare, asking any doctor who treats them: “Do you give a fuck about me? I mean, do you really give a fuck?”
The chapter ends on a darkly optimistic note. The narrator and Hominy are “successful” insofar as patients are demanding more of their doctors, but there is no indication that the doctors do indeed “give a fuck.”
Themes
Progress vs. Regress Theme Icon
Criminality, Authority, and the Law Theme Icon