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Theme of White Racism
The main theme of the book is the white authorís experience of white racism, when he temporarily transforms himself into a Negro. The author describes this theme of white racism as the story of men who destroy the souls and bodies of other men and in the process destroy themselves. In other words, racism cruelly and completely corrupts the heart, body and intelligence not only of the Negroes, the oppressed, but it dehumanizes and brutalizes even the whites, their oppressors.
Theme of Negro Strength
A minor theme of the book is the bittersweet simplicity and innocence of the Negroes that is truly inspiring. In spite of their alienation and marginalisation, because of the policy of racial segregation and discrimination, they do not become mean or demeaning, even to their white oppressor. While to their Negro brethren, they show deep warmth and courtesy, even if total strangers.
Theme of White Sensitivity
Another minor theme of the book is that of white sensitivity and sensibility even amidst all the white savagery. There are many whites, who do not aid or abet the racists, but show sympathy and solidarity with the Negroes, even at the risk of their lives and livelihood. Amidst all the barbarism, they are a great source of faith, hope and courage. P. D. East is one such brilliant example.
The mood of the book is very startling and shocking. It is not an arid account filled with generalizations and statistics on the Negro problem, or an abstract scientific research study with careful compilation of data for analysis. Instead it is a stinging and scathing indictment of white society. It is grim and vehement, blunt and bitter on the theme of white racism. But it is also very inspiring and eloquent. It is an eye-opener on not only how the Negroes suffer and sacrifice silently and stoically, but it also gives insights into their support and solidarity towards one another, even to strangers. It is lively, yet poignant, tragic, but even comic at times. The climax is stark and dark, hateful and hopeless. But the final outcome is hopeful.