‘The NRACP’ by George P. Elliott

The NRACP by George P. Elliott, 1949

The magic trick:

The portrayal of Andy and Ruth at the core of the story

Forget about the shock value of the story’s context and concept. Mostly. This is a story about America’s greatest talent: the ability to rationalize. It is a simple story, really. A man sleeps his way into separation from his wife and daughter, loses himself in a job he doesn’t have a good feeling about, convinces himself to overlook his doubts and fall in love with a new, younger woman, and, finally, focuses on his own provincial potential for familial happiness in the midst of large-scale human suffering all around him.

It’s the whole creature comforts vs. society and justice debate again. We saw it last year in Chekhov’s Little Trilogy, and Elliott is barking up the same tree here. “The NRACP” enters the argument with a bit more Twilight Zone horror and 1950s race politics. At its core, it’s the same old selfishness. And that’s quite a trick on Elliott’s part.

The selection:

The key to the answer came from my long-limbed, mildly pretty, efficient, but (I had originally thought) frivolous and banal secretary – Ruth. She is one of those women who, because they do not have an “intellectual” idea in their noodles, are too frequently dismissed as conveniently decorative but not very valuable. And perhaps Ruth really is that. But she has made two or three remarks recently which seem to me to display an intuitive intelligence of a considerable order.