Emmet Till Murder Rewriting History  Research Proposal

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Thus, Nordan does not only give an account of this main event in the true story of Emmett Till, but adds important information about the characters involved to stress the reality of the social tensions that existed at that time in the South. Besides the extensive use of magical realism, Nordan also employs several "blues strategies" to structure his narrative, as Baker points out: "In Wolf Whistle, Nordan uses several blues strategies, not the least of which is the blues technique of playing through the break, to explore the interracial implications of the Emmett Till story."(Baker, 48) the blues technique is also important because it is obviously used as a means of recreating the story within an African-American tradition. Actually, at the very moment of Bobo's fatal whistle, there is a blues singer on the porch of the store that accompanies the events with his music: "The blues singer on the porch sang that he had to keep moving to stay out of the path of the blues, he sang that the blues were falling all around him like hail... there was a hellhound on his trail, a hellhound on his trail." (Nordan, 31) the blues therefore contextualize the story even more, while laying a special emphasis on the African-American tradition. The narrative itself seems to swing and pace in the rhythm of blues sometimes, and Nordan is thus able to recreate the atmosphere and reassert the African-American identity.

As the story proceeds towards the kidnapping and the murder of the child, Nordan makes even more use of magical realism. Thus, relying on the basic facts of Emmett Till's mutilation, Nordan recreates the image of the tortured body with one of the eyes knocked from its socket. The dead eye is able to see the world in a whole new and wonderful way, that the child himself couldn't have seen: "The eye that Solon's bullet had knocked from its socket [...] saw the world as if his seeing were accompanied by an eternal music [...] saw what Bobo could not see in life, transformation, angels and devils, worlds invisible to him before death."(Nordan, 175) the wonders seen by the dead eye are significant because they allude at the way in which such a dreadful and violent act of murder can affect our perception of reality and bring to attention the fundamental aspects of reality. The finding of the dead body again prompts an explosion of magical realism in the narrative. Thus, the whole of nature seems to be affected and to suffer, and the image of the mutilated body suddenly transforms into that of the living, bright boy, innocent and hopeful: "The atmosphere rarified. Birds fell from the air. Cattle toppled over in a field. Car motors stalled on the highway. The body of the Bobo-child, dressed in a heavy garment offish and turtles and violent death, reversed all its decay, and flesh became firm once more, eyes snapped back into sockets and became bright, bones unbroke themselves, feet became swift, laughter erupted like music, and bad manners and disrespect and a possessive disdain for a woman became mere child's play, a normal and decent testing of adolescent limits in a hopeful world." (Nordan, 208-209) Through the use of magical realism, Nordan emphasizes the effect that the image of the murder and of the pictures published in magazines with Emmett's mutilated body has had on human consciousness in general. Trough these devices therefore, the author hints at the aftermath of the dreadful story and the wave of awareness that it managed to create towards the incredible injustice done to an innocent boy.

Lewis Nordan employs therefore numerous narrative devices and additions to the original historical account of the events accompanying the murder of Emmett Till so as to complete the factual reality with the social and the human aspect that would be harder to understand otherwise. His narrative therefore is not only a historical account but a recreation of the past, which helps to shed light and meaning on the real events.

Works Cited

Baker, Barbara a. "Riffing on Memory and Playing Through the Break: Blues in Lewis Nordan's Music of the Swamp and Wolf Whistle." Southern Quarterly, Spring 2003

Costello, Brannon. "Poor white trash, great white hope: race, class, and the (de)construction of whiteness in Lewis Nordan's Wolf Whistle." CRITIQUE: Studies in Contemporary Fiction 45.2 (2004): 207(17)

Metress, Christopher. "No Justice, No Peace': The Figure of Emmett Till in African-American Literature."MELUS, vol. 28, 2003.

Nordan, Lewis. Wolf Whistle. Chapel Hill: Algonquin,…

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