Chapter

The Indictment of the Law and Notions of Masculinity in Ossie Davis’ <i>Purlie Victorious</i>

Paxton J. Williams

in American Guy

Published in print September 2014 | ISBN: 9780199331376
Published online September 2014 | e-ISBN: 9780199394258 | DOI: https://dx.doi.org/10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199331376.003.0017
The Indictment of the Law and Notions of Masculinity in Ossie Davis’ Purlie Victorious

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Part satire and farce, Ossie Davis’ Purlie Victorious, serves as an indictment of the legal and political system as seen in the United States at the dawn of the modern civil rights movement. This chapter uses Purlie to explore how individual motivations and aspirations are affected by the law, and how the law produces consequences that manifest in definitions of “manly” or “masculine” depending on the level of political power of individuals and groups involved. It considers what happens when the law is marked by perceived capriciousness, competing default conceptualizations, and how both influence the machinations employed to assert rights. The chapter uses Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folk, Foster’s “Ol’ Black Joe,” and an interview with television and Broadway actor Robert Guillaume to highlight how literature, art, and everyday experiences can influence our understanding of the law, and how this understanding may change over time.

Keywords: masculine; political power; default conceptualizations; satire; farce; Broadway; Foster; Du Bois; civil rights movement; Ossie Davis

Chapter.  10378 words. 

Subjects: Literary Studies (20th Century onwards) ; Literature

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