Analysis Of Alan Mccluskey 's ' The Wasp Habitus '

1347 WordsApr 13, 20166 Pages
As Alan McCluskey, following Aldrich, argues, “usually only white and wealthy—and Anglo-Saxon Protestant—males were permitted to enter positions of influence and contribute to American high culture” (9). But while WASPish principles would maintain some hold on New England for another half-century, as we saw with Prescott, prestigious institutions began to extend class privileges to those—like Coleman Silk—who did not necessarily fit the WASP designation physically, but were sympathetic to the WASP habitus. As McCluskey continues, “Roth’s philosophical orientation to the nature of human identity holds that [identity] is an ineluctably synthetic process that is unstable, contingent, and ultimately outside the parameters of rigid definition” (8). We see as much when, about the time of Prescott’s retirement and death, a young Silk makes the decision to discard his black heritage and live his life as a white man. While relatively light-skinned, however, Silk knows from personal experience in a Norfolk brothel (“You’re a black nigger, ain’t you, boy?”) that he will never ‘pass’ for ‘pure’ white, and instead adopts a Jewish identity (114). In the slowly expanding definition of who ‘belongs,’ Silk decides to negate the race difference that would exclude him by adopting a religious identity that, while still marginalised, had increasing access to the upper echelons of New England collegial culture. As Zuckerman explains, he presents himself as a “small-nosed Jewish type with the

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