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Race Criticism Analysis

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  1. Introduction
  2. inequality and the American culture
  3. Lois Tyson's description of African American criticism
  4. Milloy's criticism
  5. Conclusion

Sandra Milloy's race criticism of The Sound and the Fury focuses almost exclusively on Dilsey and draws conclusions from her flawed interactions with two families: the white Compson household and her own African-American one. Milloy sees Dilsey as one of the most celebrated black mammies in Faulkner's novels because of her status as the family's keystone, holding each of the fragile parts together as long as she is able. Because of her large role, however, Milloy seems to argue that Dilsey has in turn neglected her own family and is unduly harsh towards them. This is why Dilsey is shown placing a Bible in Mrs. Compson's hands, though it is apparent she is feigning her illness, and will not even tend to her rheumatic husband Roskus. Milloy sees this as a betrayal of her family, and presents an almost ironical account of her: introducing her as one of Faulkner's strongest black female characters and then spending the rest of her essay tearing her down. This is done in almost the same manner as the Compsons; they do, in a way, respect Dilsey's authority, but cannot see past her race or acknowledge her as an equal, or a person. They realize her vital role to the family, yet do not want to outwardly acknowledge her status.

[...] Compson's laziness and indifference. Both essays are different in their approaches to African American criticism, but an idea of racial inequality is seen throughout the Milloy and the Davis essay. Dilsey is the most important member of the household and the Compson children's surrogate mother, yet when she tries to protect Quentin from Jason and calm her down, she is called a racial slur. Just as she is important, to the Compsons, she is equally important. Dilsey seems to be the only one who realizes her value to the household. [...]

[...] Lois Tyson's description of African American criticism describes alienation as a theme common to this type of criticism (339). This theme is found in both essays, though it is not necessarily projected only on the black characters. Milloy would argue that Faulkner's Dilsey character, the perfect black mammy, alienates her own family in exchange for the Compsons, thus playing into the role of a subservient black woman who puts the white family first. Milloy offers a short counterargument to this, saying that Faulkner may have intended Dilsey to be an overprotective parent who is strict in her children's best interest, but the idea of the dead-beat mother lingers. [...]

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