Theme and message

The main themes explored in the story “The Test” by Angelica Gibbs are racism, power abuse, and injustice.

The theme of racism is closely connected with the themes of power abuse and injustice because the inspector’s power abuse and the injustice suffered by Marian are consequences of racism.


The theme of racism is explored throughout the story. From the beginning, we learn that Marian is aware that she might be treated better if she is seen in the company of a white person when she takes her driving test: “ ‘They probably do like it better if a white person shows up with you.’ ”

This also suggests that she has experienced racism before and is used to situations where she is judged based on the color of her skin. Moreover, she knows that she is more likely to be accepted if she is seen with a white person, as if being accepted by a white person lets other people know that she is worthy of respect.

Marian’s employer, Mrs. Ericson, replies to Marian: “ ‘Oh, I don’t think it’s that’ ”. Here, the author suggests that Mrs. Ericson avoids acknowledging that racism is an issue and that Marian is a victim of prejudice. The deeper meaning behind this type of attitude is that Mrs. Ericson is a passive, silent observer. Like many others who share this attitude, she contributes to the perpetuation of racism by ignoring it.

When Mrs. Ericson suggests that Marian could bribe the driving inspector, she replies: “ ‘That would only make it worse, Mrs. Ericson. I know.’ ”. Marian does not want to give a bribe, because that would reflect poorly on her and give the inspector another reason to consider her an incapable person. It is also likely that a bribe from a white person would be taken in differently from a bribe from an African American.

The theme of racism is also reflected in the fact that Marian did not pass her first driving test, despite making only one mistake.

Moreover, it is explored throug...

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