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Neil Brooks The tragedy in both novels, and many other passing stories, is exposure.

The tragedy of the ex-colored man is the impossibility of exposure. Even the act of publishing a biography really does nothing to jeopardize the world he has built for himself because the story he narrates is largely a romanticized version of his past and an elaborate justification of his present. The generic intertexts do not serve to provide this story a stable meaning, Rather, the book refuses to be simply slave narrative, aristocratic fiction, autobiography, or even passing novel. This complex intertextuality, which underscores the shifting identity of the narrator, does not keep the novel from expressing clear messages concerning race and passing, but insists that part of that message, and certainly the irony, in The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored man, must remain suspensive, irresolvable. Washington But he lives his life initially as a white boy. Even after deciding to embrace his identity as being Negro, the ex-colored man never really joins a social circle that includes blacks. In addition, while he admired his black schoolmate, "Shiny," for his intellect and eloquence, he did not relate intimately with any of the black characters in the novel. Yet, he espouses expert testimony on the consciousness of blacks that would seem to require wisdom and experience that outstrips the narrator's life of voyeurism and alienation. Rather than spurring him to greatness, his music merely accompanies and mirrors the banality of his materially comfortable, but culturally impoverished life. Thornton Double consciousness as translated in the fiction of African American novelists is alienation on the one hand and a contrived desire to conform on the other. In her/his resistance to the controlling systems of a conspicuous or, in particular, black bourgeois life, the African American protagonist, in the tradition discussed herein, takes a journey in an effort to forge a bond that identifies the protagonist with the African American opposition to existing social conditions of black bourgeois life. In addition, this journey liberates the protagonist from those restraints which subordinate self-definition to a double-conscious sense of self. In the world of African American fiction, the African American protagonist always seems to be on the move away from conventional materialism and social pretenses associated with black bourgeois life back to a black heritage. Moreover, one constant among the variables in the African American's home search is a distinctive, continuing tradition of strategies deriving from the African American writer's awareness that the collective psyche of black people has been torn between competing dictates as a result of their encounter with the West. African American writers advise a return to the Bottom as a way for their black readership to resolve these conflicting dictates. Such a return does not signify reverse racism. On the contrary, the African American writer's role in speaking on behalf of the black folk "farthest down is crucial to a meaningful understanding of black culture. (The protagonist travels to Macon, GA and Atlanta, GA)

Pfeiffer The Ex-Colored Man's own intractable ambivalence about white-ness as well as blackness reflects the implausibility of his ever being able to obtain a coherent, hegemonic racial identity. (In order to succeed he has to manipulate his identity) The sheer injustice of the American black experience justifiably buttresses all calls for group loyalty. But against this background, asserting one's independence, one's sense of individuality proves extremely difficult. Wandler Race is not an essential part of his identity because he freely passes into and out of it The real problem is that he no longer has the freedom to see himself, or to be seen by others, as an individual, but instead only as a member of a certain community The ex-colored man decides to pass for the sake of this same kind of freedom - the freedom of having a self unhampered in its expression by arbitrary racial classifications, and the freedom to describe one's self and explain one's life "on one's own terms