Robert, however, insists on being a white man, especially after school has taught him that he is equal to any other white human being. As a mulatto, Robert experiences the strangeness of nothingness, which leads to his anxiety and harbored hate towards whites and blacks alike, and ultimately, to his tragedy, he eventually stops thinking and acting like a rational human being.
A person normally has knowledge of his/her own family, but Robert does not get any acknowledgment from his own father that the former is his own son, and so Robert feels like a worthless illegitimate son. At the age of 7 years old, he calls the Colonel papa in front of his fathers white friends. As a result, Colonel thrashed and hurt him badly. Bert was the “favorite” (Hughes, par. 91) before this incident, but he was not the one anymore. It is possible that notwithstanding the darkness of Colonels heart, he loved Bert because he looked more like him and was very smart too. Colonel Norwood has not actively “blacken” his son by removing any idea of whiteness out of the child just as he does not fully break any residual filial bonds by sending his son to school. Despite these childhood memories, Bert thinks that he is a “real white man” because of his birth right (Hughes, par. 94). Lamb talks about paternal rejection and how mulattoes seek to shun the silence on their paternity by declaring that they are the sons of white men. This assertion emasculates the white fathers, which Bert also does in the play. Later on, after coming back from school, Bert asserts that he is Norwood and half-white by trying to shake hands with his father, a greeting between equal free men. Unfortunately, his father rejects him, but he still does not hurt him enough to break his son and teach him his right place in society.