The Sellout By Paul Beatty

The Sellout By Paul Beatty | The Sellout Summary

The Sellout By Paul Beatty
The Sellout By Paul Beatty

The Novel “The Sellout”


            The Sellout is an African-American novel written by Paul Beatty. It is a satire on racism in the United State. It explores modern issues of race and racism through a shocking and often comical premise. The novel takes place in and around Los Angeles, California. The Sellout is Paul Beatty’s fourth novel as well as the most well-received. It was first published in 2015 and in 2016, it won the Booker Prize making Beatty the first US writer to win that award. The novel was released during a time of racial reckoning surrounding multiple instances of police brutality and the Ferguson Missouri protests.

            Beatty stated his motivation for writing the novel was that “He was Broke”. He utilizes stereotypes and parody throughout the story to inject Social commentary.

Character Sketch

The Narrator

            Referred to only as a narrator or sometimes, “Me”. The narrator is a normal person at first, living in the town of Dickens outside of Los Angeles.

Marpessa Dawson

            Marpessa is the childhood sweetheart of the narrator. Three years older than the narrator.

Hominy Jenkins

            An elderly man, Hominy used to be an African American cast member for the old TV show, The Little Rascals. He is grown up in a racist environment. Hominy tries to hand himself in, but the narrator saves him from death.

Foy Cheshire

             A wise man, For dislikes the narrator. Foy doesn’t like the idea of discrimination against people because of their race. He is one of the most reasonable people in the novel.

            The Black Justice, Laurel (The Narrator’s Mother), Lescook, Hampton Fiske (The Narrator’s Lawyer), Charisma Molina, and many more (Marpessa’s best friend and assistant principal of Chaff Middle School).

About Paul Beatty

            Paul Beatty is an African-American writer who won the Man Booker Prize for his novel The Sellout. He is considered the first American writer that won such a prize Beatty prefers to be called a Black than to be called an African-American writer. He was born in West Los Angeles, where he faced many troubles and hardships in his neighborhood as Whites were nearly, about 80% of its population.

The Sellout is both his last book and his fourth novel. His previous three novels are – The White Boy Shuffle (1996), Tuff (2000), and Slumberland (2008). In addition, he has authored two books of poetry – Big Bank Take Little Bank and Jaker, Joker, and Deuce.

The Themes Of The Sellout

  • Identity
  • Law and Race
  • Degradation Of Progress
  • Stereotypes and Absurdity
  • Gender, Sex, and Hypersexualization.

About Title

            The title of the novel The Sellout refers to Black people. It is a disparaging term that knowingly or with gross negligence action against the interest of Blacks as a whole.

Analysis of “The Sellout”

            The novel starts with a prologue in which the narrator claims he has never stolen anything, which he believes might surprise the readers because he is a black man. Nonetheless, he now finds himself handcuffed inside the supreme court of the United States.

“This may be hard to believe, coming from a
 black man, but I’ve never stolen anything.
 Never cheated on my taxes or at cords.”

            He spent the previous day walking around Washington DC. Now, sitting in the supreme court. Then he mentions that his case is Me Vs The United States of America because his last name is me. He has been charged with holding slaves and attempting to bring back racial segregation. He tells the story of how he ended up here. He lives in Dickens, California. His father was a social scientist and the founder of something he called Liberation Psychology.

The Narrator’s father was known as The Nigger Whisperer because of his habit of spending time on the streets. His father home-schooled the narrator, believing the whole world is racist. However, despite this upbringing, the narrator does not believe racism is much of a problem in the modern world. He does remember one incident where he believed he was charged a different price for a Soda simply because of his skin color.

            The narrator’s father is shot and killed by a police officer as he confronts them shouting during an arrest. The narrator is granted a $2 million settlement after the wrongful death of his father at the hand of the police. As a result, the narrator inherits the house and land that his father owned. The narrator takes over his father’s role as Nigger Whisperer. He is not excited about doing this but does it anyway.

            One day, the narrator discovers that Dickens has been removed from maps as part of an effort to raise property values in surrounding areas. He campaigns to get his town put back on the map. Attending a meeting of his father’s old friends to announce his plan and gains their support. He gets into an argument with their leader, Foy Chesire. Foy angrily calls him a Sellout.

            The narrator is also having an affair with a woman named Marpessa Dawson, who he has known since childhood. He also encounters one of his neighbours elderly named Hominy Jenkins. She is also upset about Dickens being removed from the maps. Hominy tries to hand himself, but the narrator saves her. Hominy wishes to become the narrator’s slave at first, the narrator laughs at this and tries to ignore it, but Hominy is surprisingly determined. Finally, the narrator agrees to take Hominy as a slave. The narrator decides to paint boundary lines around Dickens and as soon as his neighbors realize what he is doing, they all start to help.

            To celebrate Hominy’s birthday the narrator arranges to hold a party for him on Marpessa’s bus. Marpessa tells the narrator she dumped him because he is a “Sellout”. Later, they talk about why they first fell in love Two of them begin going on dates again. The narrator goes to chaff Middle School to teach students about agriculture giving them a lesson on castration. He suggests to his friend Charisma, who is a teacher there, that the school be racially segregated. The result was to orientate block kids to learning and getting ahead.

            Foy arrives at the middle school to protest Charisma’s refusal to let white students inside. The narrator arrives and confronts Foy. Foy shoots him. The subsequent investigation exposes the narrator’s plans to segregate the city and school as well as his holding Homing as a Slave and he is arrested.

            Back to the present, in the court, Foy is found innocent of attempted murder, but the narrator wins his civil suits against him. Hominy kisses the narrator and tells him that he’s quitting slavery. He continues his relationship with Marpessa. Marpessa and the narrator watch TV and during the weather report, Dickens is included along with the other cities in the area. The narrator is so happy.


Thus, the novel “The Sellout” presents the idea of the slavery system and racism. It focuses on how African-American people still suffer from an inferiority complex in society. Through which the role of the narrator he shows us, how black are treated even in the Richest Country USA. Paul Beauty argues that America is a white people’s land so that all white people have a comfortable life but not Black people.

Are you struggling to keep up with your English Literature Coursework? Do you need detailed, customized notes to help you better understand the texts you’re studying? “Look no further! Our customized paid notes will help you achieve your study goals quickly.
Varsha Singh

The Sellout By Paul Beatty | The Sellout Summary Read More »