Mixtures and Blends in Moon and the Mars

While reading both the criticism and Moon and the Mars this week, I kept thinking about what Joseph Roach calls the “project of whiteness.” His idea is that inventing whiteness was an act of surrogacy, and the completion of that project required forgetting the “mixtures, blends, and provisional antitypes necessary to its production” (6). This is certainly reflected by the scant version of history taught in schools—the public education system continues to invent whiteness (and America) by forgetting the mixtures and blends necessary to its production. Roach goes on to adopt performance as a way to glimpse through this forgetting; he believes we can remember history by looking at orature. However, I think that Moon and the Mars is partially an attempt to remember the “mixtures, blends, and provisional antitypes” necessary to the production of whiteness. Though Moon and the Mars cannot entirely be categorized as orature because it is a text, the highly vernacular nature of the narration is an element of orature. Moreover, the emphasis on learning as a key element of the text, which we discussed in class, suggests that Moon and the Mars is trying to re-remember history.

Theo herself is one of the mixtures/blends that the project of whiteness often forgets. She is half-Black and half-Irish, which is a demographic entirely ignored in the American history that I was taught in school. By reframing history through Theo’s perspective—which Corthron does through the integration of the news into Theo’s everyday life—Corthron is remembering how a specific mixture/blend existed in the production of whiteness. 

Theo hears both her Irish family and her Black family’s opinions on current events, and she finds an interpretation of her own through mixing those opinions. Sometimes, her families offer contradictory opinions—Grammy Cahill condemns the House of Industry and supports Tammany Hall while Mr. Samuel and Grammy Brooks condemn and support the opposite. Her Irish family warns her of the House of Industry’s subjugation of Irish children, while her Black family cautions against the Democratic Tammany Hall (125-129). Theo, in attempting to reconcile these perspectives, is wary of both organizations. She leaves the House of Industry quickly: “I run out before she can adopt me into Irish slavery! Or colored slavery! Either way, I’m on the market!” (131). Theo recognizes the blended nature of her identity, and her interpretation of history is informed by it. As the audience learns alongside Theo, we get a new framing of history that emphasizes the previously forgotten mixtures and blends.

2 Replies to “Mixtures and Blends in Moon and the Mars

  1. I think the idea of Theo existing as a blend is an incredibly succinct and digestible way to view her, and I also wonder if that opens up conversation on the death of culture, or at the very least a deleterious change.

    Are Theo’s black and Irish cultures able to coexist, or will the discrepancies between her families’ beliefs force her to side more with one culture than another?

    1. I, too, was impressed by this post and intrigued by the connection to a necessary act of forgetting to achieve Joseph Roach’s “project of whiteness”. Theo very clearly adopts some aspects of both of her cultures, whether that be through language, chosen friendships, or her inclination towards certain social groups.

      With regard to the follow-up question about the coexistence of Theo’s black and Irish identities, it seems difficult for her to remain directly in the middle of the two as she grows up and the world changes. The state of the nation, with the Civil War looming overhead and the abolitionist movement growing increasingly controversial, insists that Theo must take a stand as a black person. Unfortunately, her Irish family’s lack of understanding regarding what it feels like to be black renders them ignorant towards her struggles, and this issue leads to a strain in their relationship when she learns of their employment connections to slavery. With both families faced with struggles of their own, it makes it more difficult for each side to fully empathize with the other, and Theo is the one who suffers most because of this.

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