I wonder if the person he wants to marry is me or a black girl?

Jadine poses this question to herself in the middle of Chapter 3. She wonders this about her white boyfriend, Ryk, one night when she cannot sleep, as she considers what she would like to do when she leaves Isle des Chevaliers. She fears that Ryk does not value her for herself, or for any of her individual qualities, but that instead he wants to be with her because he associates her skin color with a set of exotic attributes. In fact, Jadine shares very little in common with the other black women in the novel. Jadine notes that her differences are both physical and intellectual. She does not have to straighten her hair for example, nor does she like cultural forms associated with blackness, such as jazz or primitivist art. If Ryk wants to be with her because of her skin color, rather than because of who she is beneath it, he will be disappointed, because she will not meet the expectations he has for what it means to be with a “black girl.” Jadine refuses to succumb to the constraints of race or gender.

Many other characters ask a similar version of Jadine’s question during the novel as they struggle to understand how much their physical or external attributes affect how others see them and how much other people see them depends on physical or external attributes. For example, Margaret wonders how much her beauty has affected her life. People expect her to act in certain ways because of her looks, such as being vain, and she wonders how much she has begun to fulfill those expectations, consciously or otherwise. Unlike Margaret, Son believes that physicality definitively determines personality: He firmly believes that a person’s skin color and gender absolutely should determine how that person acts.