Who is the father?

In the novel I am Not Sidney Poitier, the main character’s name is Not Sidney Poitier. Not Sidney had an interesting birth where his mother went through a hysterical pregnancy, and when he was born his mom decided to name him Not Sidney. 

While reading the novel there were a lot of times when people would look at Not Sidney weirdly upon learning his name. Then other times Not Sidney was asked if he is related to the famous Sidney Poitier. Not Sidney knew he couldn’t give the people what they want, because he can’t give the kids who make fun of his name a different name and he can’t tell the others who ask him if he is related to Sidney Poitier their answer simply because he doesn’t know. 

From reading what I have read so far in the book Not Sidney is somewhat curious as to who his father is. Not Sidney grew up with just his mom until she passed away, there was no mention what-so-ever of his father. When Not Sidney asked his mother about his father, she simply turned down his question or just changed the subject. For example, ‘“May I ask, is your father Sidney Poitier?’ ‘No.’ I answered quite definitely, but the fact of the matter is I was not quite definite; I did not know. I had no reason to suspect that Sidney Poitier was my father, but I also had no idea who my father was. I knew nothing about the man, whether he was a man or during my short years with her about him, but her answers were either so vague and confusing as to be useless or no answer at all” (84). This quote shows how Not Sidney knows absolutely nothing about his father. His mother passed away so he will never know directly from her who his father is. 

The question I have is, why exactly did Not Sidney’s mother give vague responses regarding who his father is? Is his father a bad man? Or did she simply just want him not to know for her own reasons. 

From what I have read so far Not Sidney isn’t really interested in looking into who his father is, he has never really stopped and decided to do some research or ask any questions. When Not Sidney’s mother passed away, a man named Ted Turner took Not Sidney under his roof, since Not Sidney’s mother invested a lot of money into his company. At first, I thought that Ted could be his father due to the question I had which was, why exactly did Not Sidney’s mother invest her whole savings into this one man. Reading more into the book I soon realized that my thought was just a thought. Ted didn’t seem like a man to be Not Sidney’s father. 

Ted never really took care of Not Sidney; all of his maids and teachers did. Ted hired his maids who cooked and cleaned for Not Sidney and he also hired the teacher who homeschooled Not Sidney. When Not Sidney told Ted about this teacher in his school who basically sexually harassed Not Sidney, he went to his only male figure he could ask for advice. After telling Ted the situation he asked, ‘“is that fatherly advice?’” Ted simply replied ‘“No, this is just advice from a fellow penis owner”’ (33). After these observations, I turned down my thought of Not Sidney’s father being Ted Turner. 

Since my thought of Ted Turner was turned down, I tried to think what of other male his father could be and realized that there are no other male figures that Not Sidney knows that I have brushed upon just yet. Reading over my notes to see if there were any male figures, I realized that Sidney Poitier could be one of them. Even if Not Sidney hasn’t met Sidney Poitier there could be a possibility that Sidney Poitier is the father of Not Sidney Poitier. 

Since I would need some evidence to back up my hypothesis, I had to go back into the book to see what I have read that could possibly back up my hypothesis. I found that when Not Sidney introduces himself more than half of the responses ask him if he is related to Sidney Poitier since they look alike. That got me thinking, I know that within the book there is a bunch of literary terms that Percival Everett uses. For example, he uses a lot of puns and irony throughout the novel so far. Well what if one of his examples of irony is Not Sidney being the son to Sidney Poitier. 

According to the Bedford, the definition of irony is “a contradiction or incongruity between appearance or expectation and reality. This disparity may be manifested in a variety of ways. A discrepancy may exist between what someone says and what he or she actually means, between what someone expects to happen and what really happens, or between what appears to be true and what actually is true.” Having that definition in mind it helps to form my hypothesis. As a reader and reading as far as I have at this point, I don’t know who the father of Not Sidney Poitier is, I also will not know if I am going to find out who he is. But I can have my assumptions and I believe that Percival Everett is using literary terms such as irony to express that Sidney Poitier is the father of Not Sidney Poitier.

Having all of these thoughts in the back of my head I feel as though I read the novel differently than others might. From the beginning I have been reading the novel in a different point of view, well ever-since  encountering this quote that stood out to me, “I am tall and dark and look for the world, like Mr. Sidney Poitier, something my poor disturbed and now deceased mother could not have known when I was born and named me Not Sidney Poitier” (3). This quote was said on the first page on the novel and being one of the first things I read, shapes the way I will further explore the novel. I go onto reading trying to find out who exactly Sidney Poitier is and how he relates to Not Sidney. It just seems to me that Percival Everett is leaving me on a cliffhanger. 

I don’t necessarily think that Everett is working his novel around all the literary elements he uses throughout the book. I just think that he uses them to help express what he means when he is writing. By using these elements, he helps get his point across. For example, some elements help the reader visual the text better when using elements, like Percival Everett uses irony to help express his thoughts. Everett could be using the irony to show that Not Sidney is the son of Sidney Poitier. Since Everett uses irony it helps the reader better visual the point Everett is trying to make in his novel. 

In the Bedford, there is an extended version of the word irony, within the extended version it states, “works that exhibit structural irony, the third major type of irony, contain an internal feature that creates or promotes a discrepancy that typically operates throughout the entire work. Some of the element of the work’s structure (or perhaps even its form), unrelated to the plot per se, invites the audience or reader to probe beneath surface statements or appearances.” As shown in the quote something that’s perhaps not related to the plot could be somewhat ironic in a deeper way. Not Sidney’s father isn’t a big part if at all part of the plot but a small part that could be deeper explored throughout the book. Percival Everett doesn’t come out and tell the reader who the father is so going off of the parts that I have read so far, and deeper exploring the meaning to find out the question I am further exploring. 

Other than the quote that struck me in the beginning of the book that stated how Not Sidney looked like Sidney Poitier and had his personality, there was another quote later that stood out to me. In college one of Not Sidney’s professor’s name is Percival Everett and he told Not Sidney one day after class, ‘“You know what I see when I look at you?’ ‘No.’ ‘I see Sidney Poitier.’ ‘But…’  I know, I know, you’re Not Sidney Poitier and also not Sidney Poitier but in a strange way you are Sidney Poitier as much as you’re anyone”’ (102). In this novel, as a reader we know little to no information about the famous Sidney Poitier expect for the fact that people think that Not Sidney Poitier is somehow related to Sidney Poitier. Going back to the Bedford definition again, where it said “…invites the audience or reader to probe beneath surface statements or appearances.” that just makes me think that somehow Percival Everett is throwing these little hints to the reader suggesting that Not Sidney really is the son of Sidney Poitier, and he is suggesting this using his irony of making the reader go deeper into what they already know from the reading.

Having all these observations, and suspects I have for who really is Not Sidney’s father, I have realized that it has changed the way I read the novel. Since I am so wrapped up into figuring out who the father is, even if it’s not a big part of the plot, I read the novel in a different point of view then someone who isn’t too wrapped up in knowing who it is. I find myself wrapped up into trying to find the deeper meaning in certain things that might just give me a clue one who the father is. The quotes that seem to jump out at me someway in my mind related to Not Sidney and something to do with who his father really is.           

Knowing I am reading this way I feel as I miss so many deeper parts of the book, and I am missing the important meanings because I am so wrapped up into figuring out the question I have had since the beginning of the book. I am reading the book trying to figure out if my thought process is correct. I go into it with the observations I have hoping to find something ironic that could tie into what I believe is happening.

From what I have read and from my understanding of the novel so far, I don’t necessarily believe that Pericaval Everett is trying to tell the reader that there is a correct thought process to understanding his novel. I believe that since there are many different approaches to portraying the book, and I know personally I took the approach of trying to find the deeper meaning and figuring out who Not Sidney’s father is by trying to deeper explore Everett’s work and his use of irony. 

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