External conflict with the social world of the novel and internal conflict with the (character’s own) selfhood interact closely in this novel; they build upon each other. The defining external conflict is with the racism and white supremacy that dominates in every aspect of society (through Bledsoe, we see that this is not limited to when existing in white society); internal conflict in this novel is the oppressed narrator’s continual struggle to define oneself, which is conveyed through the internal monologue of the narrator. The oppressive nature of racism means that it has a complete and insidious effect upon the narrator’s self (and attempts to define it). The external racism informs how the internal self is defined, at least for the narrator, and in turn, the internal self that is defined acts within the external racist world. Readers see this in the narrator, who models and forms himself-both his external representation to others and his internal self- after what white society wants (submissive, obedient, and well behaved). An example of this is when he rehearses how the interviews with the white men should go on pg. 157, he goes through his interior (“I would put on my best manner… I would smile and agree”) and his appearance, constructing a entire self as dictated by the oppressive society. The troubling part is how he accepts this self.
How the internal conflict in the narrator plays out follows closely with WEB DuBois’s idea of “double consciousness”, which is experienced by the oppressed in an oppressive society. The two consciousness is “always looking at one’s self through the eyes” of the racist white society and “of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt” (8). The challenge to attain true self-consciousness (which is not allowed by the oppressive society), to become one’s own self is definitely seen in the narrator, who is stuck in the “double consciousness” as detailed above. The vet in Ch. 7 tries to get the narrator to pursue a true self (“Be your own father, young man” (156)) and to be aware of his self outside the self dictated by the racist society (“Play the game, but play it your own way- part of the time at least… Learn how it operates, learn how you operate” (153-4) emphasis on you (the narrator), which echoes the narrator’s grandfather’s lesson).