The narrator’s sweetheart Marpessa Dawson is a bus driver, and her bus is the backdrop against which their romance is rekindled. The narrator’s all-consuming, devoted love for Marpessa means that even something as ordinary as a municipal bus can become a site of excitement and joy. The narrator reflects on how riding public transport carries stigma in Los Angeles, and the bus thus represents the ordinary, poor, downtrodden people who are the novel’s main subjects. At one point, Marpessa asks the narrator if he is ashamed that she is a bus driver, but really the opposite is true—he loves Marpessa so much that this love extends to everything about her, including the bus. Perhaps on account of the narrator’s biased perspective, Marpessa is presented as a particularly extraordinary bus driver, one who stands up for herself to rude passengers and who impresses the students at Chaff Middle School with a Fast and the Furious-style presentation.
The bus gains further significance as a symbol through its role in the re-segregation of Dickens. Buses were important symbols within the Civil Rights movement, from Rosa Parks (who famously refused to give up her seat to a white passenger) to the Freedom Riders (who rode throughout the South protesting segregated bus terminals). The narrator begins re-segregating Dickens by putting up a sign on the bus requesting that passengers give up their seats for white people. This was originally simply meant as a birthday present for Hominy, who asked for “racism.” However, the bus segregation eventually inspires the broader re-segregation plan and thus plays a pivotal role in bringing back Dickens. In this way, the bus serves as a microcosm of Dickens as a whole.
Marpessa’s Bus Quotes in The Sellout
“Segregate the school.” As soon as I said it, I realized that segregation would be the key to bringing Dickens back. The communal feeling of the bus would spread to the school and then permeate the rest of the city. Apartheid united black South Africa, why couldn't it do the same for Dickens?