Superficial Power: The Gifts Afforded to Property

Decent Essays

In the novel Property by Valerie Martin, she discusses the many power struggles between people in the antebellum South. Martin portrays these struggles through the eyes of a white slaveholding female, Manon Gaudet. Throughout the novel, Manon possesses a maturing resentment towards mixed race persons, specifically those which she refers to as “yellow” (162). By referring to these individuals as such, she attempts to distance herself from them in order to assert her power, gain freedom from the patriarchal institution and change her subject position; but taking a deeper look, one notices Manon gains nothing but superficial power. Manon attempts to create space between her and these “yellow” individuals in order to minimize her enemy by stereotyping them. When Manon references an experience she has with a placée she remembers “[t]hat perfect accent coming out of that yellow face. . .” (162). As Manon makes a point to mention the perfect accent, she follows that up by referring to the woman as yellow in order to make a point that there is a difference between her and said woman. This mention highlights Manon’s concern with this yellow woman and herself being categorized together. Her issue with this similar categorization stems from the way Manon thinks about these yellow people. She thinks of herself as better than them. Illustrated throughout the novel, she talks about them in a derogatory nature: “[Y]ellow brats, [each] one more useless than the next” (167) and also in one

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