The Great (White) Wail: Percival Everett’s The Water Cure and Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia

  • Beth A. McCoy


Percival Everett’s The Water Cure asserts that revenge is the US body politic’s calm, right, and proper function. Emerging from John Locke’s functional revenge fantasy, Everett’s novel slices apart Thomas Jefferson’s Notes on the State of Virginia (1785), especially Query XIV and its white supremacist disquisition that culminates with the infamous “But never yet could I find that a black had uttered a thought above the level of plain narration….” As if in responding to Jefferson’s racist claim, narrator Ishmael Kidder eschews even the appearance of “plain narration,” churns the novel’s “fragments” into a tour de force of philosophical and aesthetic retribution, and forces Jefferson’s work to stand in for the person who may never be punished for raping and murdering Kidder’s daughter.



My thanks to William M. Harrison for reading many versions of this essay.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Beth A. McCoy
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of EnglishSUNY GeneseoGeneseoUSA

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