Before reading the novel, I am Not Sidney Poitier, and knowing little to no background information I was determined that it was going to be a very boring dry novel. When we were in our small groups after reading a few pages about the novel discussing it I remember talking to one of my group mates, about what we thought the novel was going to be like. I agreed with her in saying it wasn’t going to be very deep just straight to the point. When we brought that up to professor McCoy, she told us to just wait because our mind sets will soon be changed. I can proudly say that I completely agree with professor McCoy’s comment after finishing the novel, I just realized how deep the whole thing really was.
What is brought to my attention now is the title of the novel, I am Not Sidney Poitier. Throughout the whole novel Not Sidney had to either correct people when they asked if he was Sidney Poitier or tell them that he was not Sidney Poitier. At the end of the novel when, he was being called Sidney Poitier, having to walk down a red carpet and make a speech he didn’t correct anyone. He stood in front of this crowd, who thought he was the famous Sidney Poitier not knowing who he truly was and made an honest speech. The last sentence of the speech and also the last sentence of the novel was the most powerful line to me personally, ‘“… I AM NOT MYSELF TODAY”’ (234). When I read this speech I laughed, it was strangely just so funny to me how that speech was the ending of the book, and just how after that line the whole novel was over. That speech was the moment I realized how deep this book really was.
The title is the part of the novel that displays the deepest part of the novel, to me at least. The title set the tone for what Percival Everett was intending to write in his novel. According to the Bedford, tone means “the attitude of the author toward the reader, audience, or subject matter of a literary work”. Having the tone set for the readers will give them get a sneak peek of what is about to come. This title of the book is kind of ironic in a way, since Not Sidney’s name is Not Sidney the title is true.
Except for the ending of the novel where, Not Sidney was arrested when he said that he wasn’t Sidney Poitier. He was told he was arrested for murder and was taken down to the deputy station. Not Sidney answered all the Chief’s question and they came to the conclusion that Not Sidney couldn’t be the killer of the dead man they had. The Chief decided to show Not Sidney the dead body they had to see if Not Sidney knew him. After seeing what he saw Not Sidney was shocked. Not Sidney started describing what he saw in this man that he was looking at. To demonstrate, “He was just like me. He looked exactly like me, a fact that was apparently lost on Donald and the Chief. I wanted to say, ‘That’s me.’” (211). In this description Not Sidney illustrated that this man looked exactly like him, which implies that it could be Sidney Poitier because of all the people who pointed out to Not Sidney that he looks like Sidney Poitier earlier in the novel.
It seems that in making the dead man be Sidney Poitier, Percival Everett is letting the reader’s mind wander. There could be many interpretations on to why he decided to make the dead man Sidney Poitier, to me it’s because he is showing how looks can be deceiving. According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, looks can be deceiving is used to say that something can be very different from how it seems or appears to be. The ending of the novel demonstrates that situation with Not Sidney. After Not Sidney had seen what the dead man had looked like, he wanted to go find the murderer of the person who killed a man that looks exactly like him and to get the money he wanted to give the sisters. One thing led to another and he was able to get his money, he had to fly to LAX for a vacation from everything that’s happened. When Not Sidney got to his destination everyone called him “Mr. Poitier” and he was confused on why they seemed to recognize him. Since Not Sidney looks exactly like the famous Sidney Poitier, and it seems to be that Sidney Poitier has been killed, Not Sidney has taken over the role.
According to the Bedford the definition of image is most commonly, a visual representation of something (such as a photograph) or mental picture of some visible thing or things. Not Sidney’s image at the end of the novel has been changed completely just because of his appearance. His image started off being a kid who was told he looked like Sidney Poitier to now a man who still looks like him and being called Sidney Poitier. Just because of one event switched around Not Sidney’s life forever.
In changing one thing about Not Sidney, it just changes him completely. It changes how he is viewed and how even others see him. This just shows how powerful identity is and even how powerful words/actions are. Even in Not Sidney’s speech himself he told his audience that he didn’t know who he was because of his actions that lead him to where he was at that moment. That’s why the title of the novel is so powerful, and how it just set up so much meaning for what was yet to come.