The Sellout

By Paul Beatty
Genre: Literary Fiction
Buy Now This book is on reading list for December 2015


In order to understand Paul Beatty’s The Sellout, it is necessary to consider the function of satire.

Satire as a literary device is the practice of making fun of a human weakness or character flaw. Even though satire might be humorous, its purpose is not to entertain and amuse but actually to derive a reaction of contempt from the reader. In addition, the role of satire is to ridicule or criticize those vices in the society, which the writer considers a threat to civilization.

In most cases, the author considers it his obligation to expose these vices for the betterment of humanity. Satire intends to warn the public and to change their opinions about the prevailing conditions in society. To put this literary device in context, consider Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, Jonathan Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels or even Quentin Tarantino’s “Django Unchained.”

1. What is the function of satire in The Sellout? Would this novel work if it were written without this approach?

2. How does the author provoke the reader? What reaction is he striving for?

3. Is the view of racism in the novel unique to the 21st century or is the author looking at a historic and unique American problem?

4. How much of Bonbon’s childhood is responsible for his adult behavior?

5. What is the role of characters such as Hominy Jenkins, Foy Cheshire, and Marpessa?

6. Does Beatty show regard for any institution? Consider his characterization of the Dum Dum Donut Intellectuals?

7. Were you able to laugh at this novel? Did it make you re-think some of your personal views on racism?

6. Is segregation a relic or is it an inevitable American institution?

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