HARRY B. SHAW
Arthur P. Davis's article of December 1962, " The Black-and-Tan Motif in the Poetry of Gwendolyn Brooks," even after twenty years provides a fitting springboard for a discussion of the same motif in Brooks's novel, Maud Martha. Davis explores the social theory that among black people the inside color line had tended "to create a problem within the group similar to that between colored and white in America." He points out that this color difference within the group caused special problems for the dark girl, who during the early decades of the century was often the object of ridicule among black men.
Davis's social theory is that "as cruel as it was, the whole attitude of ridicule is a natural reaction to the premium which America by law and custom and by its uncivilized institution of segregation had placed on color." To paraphrase and extend Davis's remarks and expand on the literary significance of the social theory, I contend that Maud Martha as well as Brooks's poetry makes a sharply ironic commentary on human nature by revealing that in American society rejection is caused less by deep-rooted cultural, religious, or ideological differences than by aesthetic difference or what we think about body proportions, facial features, skin color, and hair texture. The psychological effect of this familiar and pervasive kind of ridicule and of the____________________