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American History


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June 13, 1996






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3 / 566


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There, each kid invented his own place in the social network…by brute force." Conley's understanding of this complex social hierarchy only makes him more self-conscious. His position throughout the book is that of marginal participant/perpetual observer. Always slightly outside the boundaries of either the white group or the ethnic groups, Conley's sense of identity is at best confused and fraught with guilt...
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In fact, guilt becomes a continuous undercurrent throughout the entire narrative. The word is mentioned no less than ten times in connection with various events. Whether Conley is guilty about not being hit by his black teacher or ashamed of bringing his white friends from the Village to his run-down street, he is always acutely aware of social schisms and dynamics most people do not need to think about...
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