52 pages 1 hour read

Lawrence Hill

The Illegal

Fiction | Novel | Adult | Published in 2015

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Race, Privilege, and Power

Race, skin color, and bloodlines are central to this novel. Defining blackness is the critical tenet of Freedom State’s history. White skin comes with automatic citizenship and power in this country. Black skin grants second-class citizenship at best, deportation and death at worst. Characters like John and Prime Minister Wellington spend a lot of time trying to define and prove their identity. Wellington passes for white and therefore rises to power. Meanwhile, John is ashamed of his whiteness, choosing instead to make a documentary that will help secure him a spot in his black culture.

Similarly, Candace and Viola strongly identify with their black heritage and wish to change the sociopolitical culture in Freedom State so that black citizens are treated with equal protection and humanity. Ivernia Beech represents the white savior, an ally to those less privileged than herself. As the novel plays on the theme of satire, she becomes almost a caricature of her whiteness: “Ain’t easy for a white person to be saintly, but she closing in. That there woman is your camel, passing through the eye of the needle. Yes, sir. She a friend of the people, brother, so make her your friend too” (228).