Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? Themes & Motifs

Kathleen Collins
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Black Female Hair: Beauty Standards and Inter-generational Conflict

Throughout the collection, Collins employs the motif of hair to convey the dangers of normative beauty standards, and the theme of generational conflict. In several stories the narrator lauds black women’s hair when it conforms to the expectations of white hair: straight, flat, and long. In “The Uncle,” the young woman narrator describes the aunt she so admires: “an exquisite wife of such mixed breeding that her skin was the palest white imaginable, hair black and silky” (16). Though naturally the pale skin is mentioned first, quality of hair is the immediate second, conveying not only a genetic line perceived to be purer and more patrician, but also great care and style—therefore indicating higher class status.

In “The Happy Family,” the white male narrator praises the hair of the family, particularly its women, in sweeping terms: “Thick auburn...

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This section contains 3,458 words
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Buy the Whatever Happened to Interracial Love? Study Guide
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