RICHARD POIRIER


The Minority Within

Like all his other theories, Mailer's theories about the relations between the sexes reveal his intuitive taste for "war," for the conflict by which one at last delineates the true form of oneself and of others. "War" is only an occasion, however, for his effort to discover the minority element within any person, constituency, or force which might be engaged in a "war." And it is this minority element which has the most beneficially corrosive effect upon form, forcing it to dispense with its merely acquired or protective or decorative attributes. It might be more accurate to say, in dealing with this very slippery subject, that "war" provides the context within which any creative minority pressure can assert itself formatively within society, the self, or a book.

This feature of Mailer is more complicated than one might infer from the sometimes simplified dichotomies in which he indulges. The minority element is not equivalent, that is, to one side in the "war," the dualisms or oppositions found everywhere in his work. The minority is not God or the Devil, Black or white, woman or man. Rather it is that element in each which has somehow been repressed or stifled by conformity to system—including systematic dialectical opposition—or by fear of some power, like death, which is altogether larger than the ostensible, necessarily more manageable opponent apparently assigned by history. The minority element in males or Blacks or God is the result of their inward sense of inferiority which the outward or visible opposition from women or whites or the Devil did not of itself necessarily create. Blacks do not feel inferior to whites so much as to the psychotic brilliance created and, at once, thwarted within themselves by the accident of white oppres

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From Norman Mailer. Copyright © 1972 by Richard Poirier. The Viking Press.

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