Liminality and transgression in Langston Hugues' "Mulatto"

Isabel Soto


This essay explores societal fear of the mulatto as charted by Langston Hughes’ play "Mulatto" (1931). "Mulatto" dramatizes the demand for social incorporation by a mixed-race young man, Robert Norwood, who suffers a double exclusion: from the white body politic, and from the black community, by virtue of his claim to a white heritage. I make extensive use of the terms ‘liminal’ and ‘liminality’ (taken from the work of anthropologist Victor Turner) to refer to Robert’s status, his attempts to redraw that status, and the representation of space in the play. I argue that white characters’, and hence white society’s, refusal to grant Robert access to their power structures reveals a complex anxiety or fear of the borderland or liminal creature that is the mulatto, born of transgression (and, in Robert’s case, ultimately a transgressor himself). I will also argue that the play is as much about female agency as it is about the dangers attendant on the (non-white) exercise of power.

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Copyright (c) 2013 Isabel Soto

Licencia de Creative Commons
Este obra está bajo una licencia de Creative Commons Reconocimiento 4.0 Internacional.

© Universidad de La Rioja, 2013

ISSN 0211-0547

EISSN 1699-292X