The Sellout

by

Paul Beatty

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The Narrator’s Father Character Analysis

The narrator’s father is a psychologist, the founder and only practitioner of a school of thought he calls “Liberation Psychology.” He is dedicated to improving the lives of black people, and is known as “the Nigger Whisperer” in Dickens for the role he assumes in crisis intervention, talking to members of the community who are in a bad way. The narrator’s father is shown to be a genuinely innovative researcher (though this often means treating his son, who is his guinea pig, in cruel and strange ways), but his work is never rewarded—he remains “Interim Dean” of the psychology department of West Riverside Community College for the narrator’s entire life. This is no doubt in part because Foy Cheshire steals all his ideas. The narrator’s father and Foy have a contentious relationship; they are the cofounders of the Dum Dum Donut Intellectuals, and although Foy continually uses and betrays the narrator’s father, the narrator’s father remains loyal to Foy. Like his son, we never learn the narrator’s father’s first name. He is killed by the police during an altercation at an intersection in Dickens. He dies with his hand clenched into a fist, the gesture symbolizing Black Power.

The Narrator’s Father Quotes in The Sellout

The The Sellout quotes below are all either spoken by The Narrator’s Father or refer to The Narrator’s Father. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Progress vs. Regress Theme Icon
). Note: all page numbers and citation info for the quotes below refer to the Picador edition of The Sellout published in 2015.
Chapter 11 Quotes

During Black History Month, my father used to watch the nightly television footage of the Freedom buses burning, the dogs snarling and snapping, and say to me, "You can't force integration, boy. The people who want to integrate will integrate." I've never figured out to what extent, if at all, I agree or disagree with him, but it's an observation that's stayed with me. Made me realize that for many people integration is a finite concept. Here, in America, "integration" can be a cover-up. "I'm not racist. My prom date, second cousin, my president is black (or whatever)."

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), The Narrator’s Father
Page Number: 167
Explanation and Analysis:
Chapter 13 Quotes

"You're supposed to wolf whistle! Like this…” Recklessly eyeballing her the whole way, he pursed his lips and let go a wolf whistle so lecherous and libidinous it curled both the white woman's pretty painted toes and the dainty red ribbon in her blond hair. Now it was her turn. And my father stood there, lustful and black, as she just as defiantly not only recklessly eyeballed him back but recklessly rubbed his dick through his pants.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), The Narrator’s Father (speaker), Rebecca
Page Number: 177
Explanation and Analysis:
Closure Quotes

“Why are you waving the flag?” I asked him. “Why now? I’ve never seen you wave it before.” He said that he felt like the country, the United States of America, had finally paid off its debts. “And what about the Native Americans? What about the Chinese, the Japanese, the Mexicans, the poor, the forests, the water, the air, the fucking California condor? When do they collect?” I asked him.

He just shook his head at me. Said something to the effect that my father would be ashamed of me and that I'd never understand. And he's right. I never will.

Related Characters: The Narrator (speaker), Foy Cheshire (speaker), The Narrator’s Father
Page Number: 289
Explanation and Analysis:
Get the entire The Sellout LitChart as a printable PDF.
The Sellout PDF

The Narrator’s Father Character Timeline in The Sellout

The timeline below shows where the character The Narrator’s Father appears in The Sellout. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Prologue
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Blackness, Origins, and Home Theme Icon
Stereotypes and Absurdity Theme Icon
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...“Me v. the United States of America.” The narrator’s family name was originally Mee, but his father decided to change it to Me. While Hampton speaks, the black Justice fidgets uncomfortably in... (full context)
Chapter 1
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The narrator’s father was a social scientist, the inventor and “sole practitioner” of what he called Liberation Psychology.... (full context)
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When the narrator was a baby, his father placed objects representing whiteness into his cot while firing a gun and shouting racist insults,... (full context)
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During another experiment, the narrator’s father donned a Ronald Reagan mask, posing as a “white authority figure.” He then interrogated his... (full context)
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When the narrator was twelve, his father replicated a famous study of racial consciousness in black children using black and white dolls.... (full context)
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The narrator picked the white doll world because the white dolls had better accessories. Crushed, the narrator’s father burned his findings. Shortly after, he began to teach his son about farming. The narrator... (full context)
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...gun. A SWAT team arrived but couldn’t stop laughing and thus failed to shoot him. The narrator’s father arrived and calmly whispered to Kilo G, who immediately handed over his gun. His father... (full context)
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...may I become myself?” did not apply to him. The narrator was a product of his father and of Dickens, but then one day both his father and Dickens disappeared—leaving him with... (full context)
Chapter 3
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...his horse to a meeting of the Dum Dum Donut Intellectuals, a “neighborhood think tank” his father founded. At an intersection, he finds his father’s body lying face down with his hand... (full context)
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...narrator knows he is supposed to cry, but he doesn’t. He cannot help thinking that his father ’s death was another “trick” to teach him about the oppression of black people. The... (full context)
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After the police draw the chalk outline and take the evidence photos, the narrator takes his father ’s body into Dum Dum Donuts and requests his father’s usual order. The narrator slurps... (full context)
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The narrator’s father quickly became friends with Foy, and the two cofounded the Dum Dum Donut Intellectuals. However,... (full context)
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Although the narrator’s father was an atheist, Foy nevertheless prays over his dead body, embracing it. Yet the narrator... (full context)
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While he was alive, the narrator’s father had a habit of sleeping with his teenage students. The narrator’s mother was a Jet... (full context)
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Using the $2 million settlement he is awarded after his father ’s death, the narrator buys the farm that his father had always dreamed of purchasing.... (full context)
Chapter 4
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Five years after the narrator’s father ’s death, Dickens is “quietly removed” from the map of California. The surrounding cities conspire... (full context)
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Following the death of the narrator’s father , the neighborhood is left searching for the next “Nigger Whisperer.” The narrator assumes the... (full context)
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...weed to house parties and likes to think that Gregor Mendel, George Washington Carver, and his father would be proud. (full context)
Chapter 5
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...needed the narrator most was an elderly man named Hominy Jenkins. Back in the day, the narrator’s father had sent his son to take care of Hominy during the many times he recklessly... (full context)
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...boys and stopped coming. The first breast the narrator ever saw belonged to one of his father ’s teaching assistants, who he found naked on his own bed after she had had... (full context)
Chapter 7
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The narrator doesn’t like attending these meetings. After his father ’s death there was a brief possibility that the narrator would become the next “lead... (full context)
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...back the city of Dickens,” and everyone laughs. Foy turns over a nearby portrait of the narrator’s father and asks the narrator why he hopes to bring Dickens back. The narrator doesn’t answer,... (full context)
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...bring back Dickens. He says he started coming to Dum Dum meetings because he liked the narrator’s father . He leaves, advising the narrator to think about his plan for black Chinese restaurants... (full context)
Chapter 8
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...about crossing it, in part because it reminds him of the chalk line drawn around his father ’s dead body. However, he likes the “artifice” of the line, and realizes that his... (full context)
Chapter 9
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...next morning, the narrator had his first kiss in the back of a pick-up truck his father was driving. His father kept turning around and signing “fuck her already” with his hands.... (full context)
Chapter 12
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When the narrator was a child, his father briefly considered sending him to a “fancy prep school.” However, his father then read a... (full context)
Chapter 13
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The only time the narrator experienced “direct” racial discrimination came after he told his father racism did not exist in America. That night, the narrator’s father woke his son and... (full context)
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The narrator’s father explained that they were there to engage in some “reckless eyeballing.” Thanks to his instruction... (full context)
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...how. He managed to shoddily whistle Ravel’s Boléro, which infuriated both the white men and his father . His father exclaimed that he was supposed to wolf whistle, and let out his... (full context)
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...attendant told him that the restroom was for customers only; when the narrator objected that his father just bought gas, the attendant pointed out that the narrator was not his father. He... (full context)
Chapter 17
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...that she is thinking about it. Marpessa is the only person to “diagnose” the narrator—even his father claimed to have no idea what was wrong with him. Marpessa, on the other hand,... (full context)
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Marpessa may think the narrator is unfunny, but the narrator claims his father was far worse. His father used to perform at the Plethora, and would tell jokes... (full context)
Chapter 18
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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... (full context)
Chapter 19
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 20
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...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... (full context)
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...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... (full context)
Chapter 22
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...the pool. Hominy pretends he can’t swim, gripping Butterfly to stay afloat. The narrator recalls his father ’s words—“Who am I? and How may I become myself?”—and concludes that he is “as... (full context)
Chapter 23
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...Jim Crow,” which asks if “Public Education [has] Clipped the Wings of the White Child?” The narrator’s father taught the narrator that every time a magazine features a rhetorical question on its cover,... (full context)
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The narrator’s father always taught him to think about what happened after a given event. He would remind... (full context)
Chapter 26
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On the anniversary of the narrator’s father ’s death, he and Marpessa go to Dum Dum Donuts for open-mic night. The narrator... (full context)