In the story “The Kind of Light that Shines on Texas” by Reginald McKnight we encounter several conflicts that our main character, Clint, an African American child who attends a public school back in 1960, Waco, Texas. He faces through out the story several conflicts with society and also the conflicts he faces personally like living in prejudice. He also has problems with his mother due to his inner problems and lack of communication in the house. The point of view of this story is what really makes it so engaging and easy to read. This story is surrounded by conflict since the beginning, when we learn about the class ration of white kids to black kids and our main character is having a really bad experience because he is not getting anything positive out of going to school, his teachers and classmates are not nice to him, they make inappropriate comments which are for the black kids and also bullying from another student towards Clint, and as a result, he get into trouble in school. Clint has several conflicts in the story; the first one is person vs. society.
Clint is struggling with the racism that was present in the 60’s in a southern conservative Texan town. The conflict he encounters is that his teacher, Mrs. Wickham, makes inappropriate comments towards the African American students in front of the whole class and then insists the comments where jokes, “Now don’t you nigra children take offense. This is all fun, you know,”(McKnight, 2006, pg. 226.) Basically making fun of her students and trying to show the other kids that it is okay to laugh at others. This affect Clint because he is the pun in the joke, he is the target to engage to make fun off and this is exactly what Oakley does when he begins to bully Clint. Also this make Client feel like an alien in the class. The other conflict we encounter with Clint is with him trying to understand why society is doing this to him and his similar classmates, why is Mrs. Wickham telling mean jokes, why is no one saying something about the insulting comments.
He also starts to wonder why Marvin, the other African American boy in his class, does what he does in class, he wonders why does he spit on his arm and rubs it, “He had the habit of spitting on his right arm, juicing it down till it would glisten.” (McKnight, 2006, pg. 223.) Instead of helping Clint with his conflicts, also aimed at Marvin and why does he has to be the only target of the teacher and the class bully Oakley. That’s when he remembers the class they had the lights and prism, this made him remember what he learned. “The color of the thing isn’t what you see, but the light that’s reflected off it.” (McKnight, 2006, pg. 233.) Here is where he learns that the all are the same but it’s due to the light that they appear to be different. I believe that the conflict is not resolved but Clint learn a valuable lesson about who he really is and Clint gets involved in a fight with his bully Oakley which is the persons vs. person conflict, it all started because the gym teacher was the instigator for the conflict to happened, he was the one who put the black kid against the white kid, he knew what was going on, and its because of this that the conflict starts.
However there is a twist, Marvin steps up to the bully to defend Clint and give Oakley a beating. We don’t know the actual outcome of the story, but due to the whole set up, we might get an idea of what happened to Marvin. I believe that the possible resolution to this fight is that Marvin could have either get expelled from school because they lived in a conservative town or at least get a really hard punishment, on the other half, Oakley could be suspended for a couple of days or just go off with a warning. The mother son conflict in the story is what Clint really doesn’t want to talk about his mother about the problems he is facing in school, she shows no emotion or care towards him; he would rather be with his dad than his mother, but in this case it can’t be done because his father is in Vietnam fighting the war.
She show’s no emotion when they talk, probably the most flat character in the story, she seems to be sad because his husband is away or has so many things going through her mind that stopped paying attention to her family. Instead Clint shows different emotion, like anger, confusion, and disappointment when he feels he can’t communicate with his mother and tell her about the problems he is having in school. In the story, we see that the point of view id form a child, who is beginning to learn about life and society, he feels confused because he doesn’t understand why is he the target and source of conflict in school, this is why we get engaged so easily when we begin reading the story, because we have always been in a similar position when we were younger, we did not understand fully why was something happening and did not received a clear response from the grownups surrounding us. I like it that the story is in 1st person because and we can really connect with the main character and understand why is he struggling so more, as well as the factor that it’s a boy who is telling the story, we sense the innocence in the writing because he does not understand why is the teacher making jokes about the 3 students and desperation he must be feeling when he goes to school and has to face all the conflicts.
This story is a great example to show conflict between person and society as well as person vs. person. We get the chance to see how Clint sees society and how the school and town he is growing up is. We encounter how Clint has a problem with society because of the way they are treated in class and how the teachers are just making them feel inferior to the other students. Also how the school system plays a roll in the story because of the student ratio of 1:10 students seem to bother a lot Clint. In the story there also is a person vs. person conflict when the fight with Oakley takes place during the gym period, which it was basically set up by the gym teacher who told them that
McKnight, R. (1992) The Kind of Light that Shines on Texas. In P. Shreve & B. Minh (Eds.)
30/30 Thirty American stories from the last thirty years.
(Pp. 223-234) New York: Pearson Longman.