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BLACKOUT- by Roger Mais

This short story was set in a Caribbean island, most like Jamaica since
the author hails from that country. It was set during World War II. The title,
Blackout is given, referring to two things. It could be literal, referring to the
city being in darkness due to the policy of conserving electricity during the
war. It could also be referring to the woman being in a figurative darkness,
that is, that she cannot she the truth or the light of all people being equal.
The story is written from the third-person limited omniscient point of
view. This means that the narrator is not a character, but is narrating the
story as if from the outside. The narrator can only see into the mind of one
character- the American woman- hence the term, limited. By showing us
the womans thoughts, we can see into the mind of a racist and understand
what she thinks of the man- just because he is black. We can see her change
in emotion and opinion as the interaction continues.
The American woman was waiting at the bus stop. She was calm
despite the recent attacks by hooligans on unprotected young women. She
was positive and proud of her American heritage, up keeping the tradition of
not being easily scared.
She saw the shadow.
She was approached by the
black man.

Slightly curious
Intrigued thinking that there was novelty in it
She was so convinced of her superiority that she
considered it new or unusual
She found it- something that should have been
normal- intriguing
The man asked for a light for She reveals her racism
his cigarette and he steadily She didnt have a match but wonders whether he
looked at her with pride,
would believe her
challenge and quiet
She was uneasy about giving him a light from the
amusement. He could sense
cigarette she was smoking feeling that it was too
that she was racial but he
intimate with a black man
was proud of his ethnic
background and wanted to
see what she would do.
She finally offered her
She had meant for him to collect the cigarette and
cigarette and he bent over to
light his
light his own.
She was a bit appalled and slightly disgusted that

He was smoking only half a

cigarette which he was
conserving on

The mans expression

changed to cold and

a black man had come so close to her

After smoking the cigarette with much enjoyment,
she flicked it away unthinkingly
The cigarette was no longer appealing after a
black man used it for a light
She casually threw away almost a whole cigarette
as she could easily replace it
She was unnerved but not frightened
She felt uncomfortable as the black man looked at
her in that way and she realised she revealed her
racist behaviour
She began to feel that he was contemptuous of
her and felt that it was very rude

The man sarcastically

Her idea of superiority is shown again as she
apologised for making her
mentions that she feels indecent to be jawing
waste a whole cigarette and
with a black man at a street corner
commented that it was
She further thinks that he should leave despite the
nothing for her to buy
fact that the road was a public facility and
therefore she had nothing to do with it
She says that she should snub him quietly, the
way she should have properly done from the
start. Her superior thinking is further shown as
she believes that the proper thing for white
people to do is to snub the black people
He threatens he, saying that She thinks that he should be lynched as in
if she were a man, he would
America, he would be lynched for doing a lot less
give her something to think She felt exasperated and then decided to humour
him as her incident would be something to talk
about back in America
She saw the mans encounter with her and his
pride as something funny that she could mock
with her friends
She further asks him if he really thinks that all
men are equal as if no one should possibly think
She left for the bus as he
Her confidence, however, was shaken
stood aloof and strong. His She felt challenged and disturbed as it was
pride had not been shaken
probably the first time that a black person had
by her treating him as
not behaved submissively towards her

IRONY: The white American woman felt that the black man was insolent for
supposedly looking at her in a contemptuous and speculating way. This is
ironic as she is the one actually being rude. She threw away almost an entire
cigarette because a black man used it for a light. Because he disliked that
treatment, she felt that he was being insolent.
SATIRE: As the American woman left on the bus, the man picked up the
cigarette that she had thrown away. His pride, evident just moments before,
had suddenly disappeared as he submitted to his need for a cigarette. His
action was described as hungrily. What she considered easily dispensable,
he considered of great importance. He is suddenly made to look ridiculous
after his show of pride and strength.

1. MAN VS. HIMSELF- The woman thinks that she is not a racist, but she
2. MAN VS. HIMSELF- The man fights between his pride and his need for a
cigarette that allows him to pick up one she has thrown away
3. MAN VS. MAN- The mans personal dignity and freedom are in conflict
with the womans racist assumptions about black people
4. MAN VS. MAN- The mans innocent motives are in conflict with the
deep fear the woman has of black people

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