July 01, 2020
Make a career of humanity,” this is what a two-time Pulitzer winner urges us to do today. In the world
which we live there is no dearth of divisive obstacles. The human mind has categorised and
what is up for perception; in its extremes, this categorization has led to some of the most oppressive
exploitative systems of governance. In uncertain times like the one in which we live turn to the voices
trust the most to make sense for us out of the chaos that pervades our world.
When reading The Nickel Boys, a novel set in 1960’s Florida one is brought face-to-face with the
of racism and segregation. Elwood Curtis, an ambitious young man, is all set to apply to a local black
when one tiny, innocent mistake derails his plans for the future and lands him in a correctional
facility that promises
to make an honest man out of him. But the nightmarish reality of it is that any one who would dare to
stand up in the
face of a corrupt and degenerate institution would ‘disappear’. An ideal young man- beloved to family,
adored by his teachers,
thought of in amiable terms by the rest of his peers, Elwood Curtis finds himself, to use the old adage,
in the wrong place at
the wrong time. One simple actgets him thrown into an institution that treats its inmates with a severe
hand; the facadd of z
correctional facility is a barely and ill maintained one.
In clear, eloquent prose, Colson Whitehead presents to us a canvas on which is painted a very difficult
painting. Difficult, because
of its subject matter. Segregation and racism which was woven into the very fabric of America and other
colonies created a breeding
ground for contempt and hatred of a single community based on the colour of one's skin. Perhaps it was
the freakish nature of the
violence that lent itself to the drestruction of a single community that prompts Whitehead to avoid
fantastical labnguage; the problems
themselves read like something that one could only have imagined. But this was the clear and present
reality. The story that we have to
stare in the eye is a terrifying one. One inwardly flinches at the clear and brutal descriptions that
find themselves into the story.
One finds themselves growing quite fond of the characters that Whitehead moulds with his words. Their
develpoment is steady. The book itself
is emotive and you are exposed to the emotions of the characters. At some point their emotions become
your own. On the other hand you come to
despise the other malevolent characters and everything they stand for.
Books like The Nickel Boys are important when we stand more in danger of repeating history by
But now, having brought our attention to it, the book also sensitizes us towards the problems of a
as if they were our own.
The Nickel Boys won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction 2020. This is Colson Whitehead’s secind Pulitzer,
being for The Uderground Railroad..