It may surprise you to learn that Taiye Selasi’s short story, “Driver,” absolutely seethes with class antagonism. It does so very quietly. “I am the full-time driver here,” is the first line of the story; “I am not going to kill my employers” is the second. Instead, the protagonist—Webster, a formerly college-bound young man whose ambitions were halted by his father’s illness, and who has become a driver for a wealthy Ghanaian family—writes “I will make just a few observations.”
This is all he will do. He will not kill them. He will merely see them.
He does not burn down his employers’ house, for example, but he does make some heated observations: the madam’s flowers are, she tells him, the “toast of all of Ghana”; some of us, he responds, do not have bread. But he doesn’t say it; he only imagines saying it to her. It’s the kind of bitter play on words that a frustrated mind would knot itself up with, but it’s a signifying that he doesn’t dare speak out loud. He doesn’t dare burn down their house, though he kind of wants to; instead, he ruminates on how the pots of flowers “burst into flames” as they “pretty” the walls of the compound. How beautiful their house would look in flames, he doesn’t say. The story does not turn into Faulkner’s “Barn Burning.” He does not attempt to reclaim his masculinity with violent action. He is passive. He observes.