In Judged by Ziyad Marar, the author was discussing Philip Roth’s The Human Stain, and its main character, Coleman Silk:

Coleman as a classics professor is well versed in the Greek tragedies which tell of our fateful destinies, but all the while he rages against this sense of inevitability in his own life and against conformity. He decides early on in life that he does not have to live like a tragic character, that he can make choices that push against the grand plans others may have for him. ‘This has been the purpose of the mighty gods. Silky’s freedom. The raw I. All the subtlety of being silky silk.’ And when his escape routes prove at times to be dead ends we see him trapped in the uncomprehending web of misconstruals and misunderstandings of others. The subtlety, the ‘raw I’, of being Coleman is only glimpsed by us, through the words of Nathan, his narrator.

What's exactly meant by "raw I" and "subtlety of being silky silk"?


1 Answer 1


"The raw I" seems to be referring to the idea that he is presenting himself as himself, without pretenses, "raw" being used in the sense of "not prepared or processed" like "raw meat" or "raw silk". As regards the "subtlety of being silky silk", I'm made slightly less certain by the lack of capitalization, but some versions do include the capitalization of "Silky Silk", which refers to his boxing persona. As regards the "subtlety" of it, Silk is black, but in order to get into a white college, he adopts the new alias, with an implication of Judaism:

Some of these scouts are well-intentioned, such as his high-school boxing coach, dentist “Doc” Chizener, who tries to get him a scholarship to an historically white college by encouraging him to identify as Silky Silk, one of “Doc’s boys,” presumed Jewish. This is Silk’s first taste of what it might mean to become Jewish sans Judaism — a model minority. Other scouts claim empathy but ultimately see blacks as competitors for the few spots open to those who are not fully white.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.