Looking back at the previous novels I have read in English, I have realized some are not entirely different, especially with some of the main characters in the novels. In Percival Everett’s novel, I Am Not Sidney Poitier and Percival Everett’s novel, Frenzy, there is intertextuality between the characters Not Sidney Poitier and Vlepo. Intertextuality is defined in the Bedford as, “the condition of interconnectedness among texts, or the concepts that any text is an amalgam of others, either because it exhibits signs of influence or because its language inevitably contains common points of reference with other texts…” Even though the characters are from two different novels written by Percival Everett they have some common points.
In the novel, I Am Not Sidney Poitier, the main character, Not Sidney was convicted of murder until further investigation proved that he wasn’t. When he was shown the body, he couldn’t believe his eyes because it looked as he was looking at himself. This tells the reader it is probably the famous Sidney Poitier due to examples throughout the novel telling Not Sidney he looked exactly like Sidney Poitier. Being that Not Sidney seemed to be looking at a body that looks like his, no one knew that the famous Sidney Poitier was dead. That being said, like I wrote about in one of my previous blogs, Another World, Not Sidney took over Sidney Poitier’s life at the end of his novel.
In the novel Frenzy, one of the main characters and the narrator, Vlepo is not a normal specimen. The novel didn’t go into detail about what his true form is, except when the reader is reading about all the forms he becomes. For example, “Before I could offer my opinion, I was in the body of a woman, feeling her delirium walking toward a freshly killed deer from which others were tearing strips of flesh” (17). Vlepo is never just one thing, in this example, he is a woman there is another time he was a goat. He doesn’t have a true form.
It might not seem like these two characters are any bit similar, but they are. They both at one point in their novels change into something they didn’t start as in the beginning for whatever the reason is. They are also both confused about one thing. For instance, at the end of the novel, Not Sidney was giving a speech to a bunch of people who thought he truly was Sidney Poitier, at the end of the speech he left off with a significant line, “I AM NOT MYSELF TODAY” (234). That line not only told the readers that Not Sidney was not purposing taking over for Sidney Poitier due to fame and also because of looks but because he honestly is confused. Seeing his duplicate being dead made him rethink a lot of things like, who was he?
In the novel Frenzy, Velpo was also confused about who he truly was. There were a few times in the novel where he questioned his master, Dionysos asking what/who he was. For example, ‘“You, Vlepo, you represent the human middle. It’s not much of a life, though, is it? -representing a thing”’ (47). Dionysos told him that he wasn’t human but just a thing that represents life. Which from reading the novel you assume that he isn’t a human, because he can shapeshift into maybe different forms and even read people’s thoughts by being controlled by his master.
Identity is very important in everyday life. It’s how you are portraying yourself to others, and the way they see you. Identity, according to Merriam-Webster is defined as “the distinguishing character or personality of an individual”. Well between these two characters, Not Sidney and Vlepo it seems that their identities don’t show how they portray themselves to others. Vlepo doesn’t have much power being that he has to follow his master’s orders and doesn’t make decisions for himself. He is thrown into situations and has no say in whether he wants to or not. To illustrate, at the end of the novel, Dionysos gave Vlepo an important task, ‘“After I have achieved sleep, real sleep. I want you to cut out my heart from this body and leave it unceremoniously on the ground.’ ‘I cannot kill you.’ I said. ‘You can, Vlepo. You cannot defy me, but you can kill me. I wish it so.’ ‘You are my master.’ ‘Yes, I am”’ (154). Vlepo has no power to do what he wants, he just has to respect the wishes of his master, even if it means that he might have to kill him.
On the other hand, Not Sidney is not quite the same. Not Sidney does get thrown into situations that he cannot control but he also has more power to control other situations and stop them from happening. Even in completely different novels, there are still things that Not Sidney can’t control, like his skin color. When he was driving to Atlanta and got pulled over and arrested, he was told it was because of his color. Not Sidney was put on a bus with other people who were arrested but not of the same race. Not Sidney describes, “I sat near the back of the bus, my face pressed against the diamond-patterned cage, my right wrist shackled to the white man’s left” (52). Yet again Not Sidney is in a situation where he can’t control or do anything about it. Not Sidney and the white man meet a family and found a situation where he could get out of this sticky situation, he was in being chained to the white man. Not Sidney knew he wanted to escape and because the family got closer to the white man, they all decided they were going to escape with him. At the end of the chapter, Not Sidney had the power to make his own decision and do what was best for him. To explain, “The train’s whistle blew. It was coming and I was the only one awake. I did not wake them. The locomotive passed, and I walked to the tracks” (79). Having some power to decide on his own Not Sidney did and chose to leave everyone sleeping and go off on his own.
As I described Not Sidney might not have too much power and is thrown into situations, he cannot control but there are still many times where he can control the situation which shows that he has power. However, Vlepo doesn’t have the luck Not Sidney has and isn’t able to make any chooses for himself. He is just thrown into whatever his master makes him do. It seems that Vlepo is confused about his identity through the novel like he has his identity he shows the people around him but deep down he is honestly confused about who he is and how he should show himself to the world. He has the image that he shows to the world which is, ‘“I am Vlepo,’ I said. ‘I am a servant to the god Dionysos”’ (115). To others, he is just the servant who just follows orders that are instructed to him by his master, Dionysos. Even though Vlepo does question what he is he doesn’t do anything about it. He points out at the beginning of the novel, “My usual place was at the side of the god Bromius as his aide, his chronicler, his mortal bookmark. I am Vlepo. For as long as I have known that there is time and a life to know, I have been with god. I am not his creation, but I cannot claim a life away from him” (3). Vlepo, the narrator of the novel Frenzy tells his readers early on what he is and really how he wants others to see him on the outside. Towards the middle of the novel, Vlepo does question who he is and asks his master. Specifically, ‘“Did you create me?’ I asked, finding a tree against which to lean my shoulder. ‘Create is such a slatternly, ticklish word. I wouldn’t say that I created you.’ ‘What would you say? Would you say that you constructed me? Built me?”’ (88). Vlepo feels as he is different than how people see him. He wants to figure out his true self.
Not Sidney at the end of his novel questions who he was. He knows that people see him differently especially after he saw Sidney Poitier, even if they don’t know the true him. Not Sidney not only realized his identity doesn’t match his life but also speaks it to the world in a speech he had told the public who thought he was Sidney Poitier.
Identity is different for everyone since no one is the same. I know for me, there was a time in my life where I was confused about if what I was showing the world was really who I was deep down. There is always going to be that time in your life where you will ask yourself, is this really who I am? I feel like it’s a part of growing up, finding your true self and how you want others to see the real you. There is no exact moment that this situation could happen and that is shown in the two novels. Vlepo and Not Sidney don’t ask themselves the question of who they are until later in their novels.
Even from different novels, Percival Everett’s characters Vlepo, and Not Sidney are not quite different, they both are different than others, and don’t have much power over situations. They also don’t think their identity matches how they present themselves to the world. The two characters are not quite different.