The White Gaze reveals…

In “A Conversation about Bread” by Nafissa Thompson Spire there is a white woman watching the two main characters. She helps show the readers the staunch differences between Eldwin and Brian. She doesn’t really affect Eldwin. His philosophy is to act as if he can’t see white people staring at him. She affects Brian though, in the way he is afraid to talk or say certain words too loud. She helps show us how the different backgrounds of these two characters help shape them in completely different ways. How Eldwin grew up going to a multiethnic school and a very liberal college where he didn’t ever feel he need to hide unlike Brian who not only had a liberal California background but also the Southern background he gained from his time in Mississippi. Brian is a little more reserved and defensive especially when talking about race. Eldwin is not afraid or reserved about anything; he embraces his heritage in everything he does.

Power vs Free-will

In Escape from Spiderhead, there is an inherent power dynamic in which the scientists have power over the inmates however, I found it interesting how the inmates always had some degree of free will and how the scientists tried to manipulate that. Whenever Abnesti performed an experiment he had to request permission to administer the drugs and the inmates had to say acknowledge to allow the scientist to administer the drugs.

Abnesti works hard to gain the inmates trust so they think of him as a good person and listen to him. Abnesti uses the goodwill he has garnered to try and persuade Jeff to allow him to administer the new round of drugs when Jeff originally refused to do so, by saying “do I remember birthdays around here? When a certain individual got athlete’s foot on his groin on a Sunday, did a certain other individual drive over to Recall and pick up the cream, paying for it with his own personal money?”(68). This shows us that the scientists aren’t all-powerful in the Spiderhead and Abnesti knows this so he manipulates the inmates including Jeff into thinking that he is good and the inmates are bad. Abnesti realizes that Jeff wants to be better so he uses the fact that he is supposedly “good” to his advantage when trying to manipulate Jeff.

Later in the story Jeff doesn’t acknowledge again only this time Abnesti asks Verlaine for the obedience drug, which oddly enough, needs permission for use. This reinforces the idea that even though the scientists have power over the inmates the inmates still have some degree of control and free will.