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The Test

This study guide will help you analyze the text “The Test” by Angelica Gibbs. We will show you examples of elements in the text that will be relevant for your analysis. In these notes, we will focus on the summary, structure, characters, setting, narrator and point of view, language, themes and message.

Presentation of the text

Title: “The Test”
Author: Angelica Gibbs
Published in: The New Yorker
Date of Publication: 15th of June, 1940
Genre: Short story

Angelica Gibbs (1908 - 1955) was an American writer of short stories and contributor to The New Yorker. Gibbs began submitting fiction to The New Yorker in 1931; she continued to write fiction, reviews, and contribute to its weekly columns for the next 23 years. “The Test” is one of Gibbs’ most popular short stories. It has been included in several short story collections, most notably in Primer for White Folks, where it appears alongside other stories that approach the theme of discrimination.

Excerpt

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Title

The meaning of the title – “The Test” - is both literal and symbolic. In the literal sense, it refers to the driving test that Marian, a young African-American woman, takes for the second time in the story.

The symbolic meaning lies in the conflict between Marian and her driving inspector. Throughout their interaction, he makes prejudiced, racist, and sexist remarks and jokes. For example, when he learns that she is 27, he says: “ ‘Old enough to have quite the flock of pickaninnies, eh?’ ”. His assumption that Marian must have many children shows his prejudice about African-American women’s lifestyle. Moreover, by using the word “flock”, he compares African-American children to animals, indirectly suggesting they are less than human.

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The Test

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