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Paul, the narrator and protagonist of The Land, is black, according to the post-Civil War South, but he looks white. He struggles with issues of racial identity, personal independence, brotherhood, and freedom. The Land traces Paul's life from one of the first moments he realizes the significance of his African-American background, to the moment when he achieves his dream and establishes himself as an owner of 200 acres. Leading up to this accomplishment, Paul endures many trials and suffers almost unbearable losses. At first, Paul grows up completely certain of his white family's love and fidelity—his father raises him on more or less equal footing with his three white brothers. As Paul comes of age, however, he realizes that he and his brothers can never exist in the same world and enjoy the same rights and privileges. When Paul's brother Robert abuses his privilege at Paul's expense, Paul realizes that he cannot call his white family his own. In response, Paul begins to cultivate a deep, lifelong, brother-like relationship with Mitchell Thomas, a black boy who lives on the plantation. Together, the two young men face the challenges of living in a society built to beat them down, but they persevere as they enter manhood. The two remain faithful to each other and to their dreams. Through their friendship, Paul is able to realize not only his dream of owning land, but also his dream of sharing such a deep and unshakeable bond with another human being.
Ace your assignments with our guide to The Land!