One of the only things oppressed groups can have going for them in a situation where they are discriminated against is having a good, clean reputation. In Alligator Bayou, Calogero's uncles work tirelessly to build a solid, fair, and good reputation, which Francesco hopes will save them from the racist mobs that have been known to lynch Sicilians. Unfortunately, though, when you're in the oppressed group, the oppressor feels quite comfortable re-writing your reputation to suit their own purposes—and in this book, we see that re-writing taken to the worst possible conclusion. Needless to say, no matter how hard you work on your reputation, if you're not white in this story, it never gets you the respect you deserve.
Questions About Respect and Reputation
What are some qualities that the uncles have that builds a good reputation? Who are they hoping to look good for?
What ruins Calo's family's reputation in Tallulah? Did they have anything to do with it?
Are the Sicilians respected at all? Why or why not? And by whom?
Does Calo's family's reputation save them after all? Why do you think the outcome is not what they expected?
Chew on This
There is no such thing as respect in an unequal, discriminatory community.
In this book, reputation is based on individual behavior, not group behavior.