Just offering sarcasm, information and insight.
There is no such thing as happiness. Life bends joy and pain, beauty and ugliness, in such a way that no one may isolate them. No one one should want to. Perfect Joy or perfect pain, with no contrasting element to define them, would mean a monotony of consciousness, would mean death-Jean Toomer.
Order you he said. He ordered you. Dammit, white folk are always giving orders, it’s a habit with them. Why didn’t you make an excuse? Couldn’t you say they had sickness-smallpox-or picked another cabin? Why that Trueblood shack? My God, boy! You’re black and living in the South-did you forget how to lie? Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man.
Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,
And sinks into my throat her tiger’s tooth,
Stealing my breath of life, I will confess
I love this cultured hell that tests my youth!
Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,
Giving my strength erect against her hate.
Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.
Yet as a rebel fronts a king in state,
I stand within her walls with not a shred
Of terror malice, not word of jeer.
Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,
And see her might and granite wonders there,
Beneath the touch of Time’s unerring hand,
Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand.
According to the American Academy of Poets, April is poetry month. The last post examined Ezra Pound’s In A Station of The Metro. Claude McKay’s America recently caught my attention.
McKay emigrated from Jamaica to America in 1912. Initially, he attended Tuskegee University. Eventually, he transferred to Kansas State University. During this time, McKay faced segregation throughout public facilities. Ironically, this gave him the inspiration to write poetry.
He developed his reputation as writer during the Harlem Renaissance. McKay wrote three novels. He also produced two collections of poetry. The novel Home to Harlem was a bestseller and received the Harmon Gold award.
W.E.B Dubois’ Souls of Black Folks influenced his poetry. Dubois introduced the concept of Double consciousness into sociology. Double consciousness is when an individual’s identity develops into segments. According to Dubious, Black folks feel a two-ness as both Americans and people of color.
The frustration at injustice and struggle to embrace America underscores America. McKay incorporates both personification and figurative language to capture this tension of being both Black and American. Also, there is another duality in this storyline. America holds endless promise and opportunity. Despite this, the America also offers bitterness and anger.
America is a predator (the nation becoming a living creature) in this poem. However, the narrator also loves American culture. He sees dark days ahead but sees America as grand and powerful. The nation is striving to overcome its past sins. The republic is working towards redemption.
“Now,” said Lesche suddenly, “stop!” Try to move your hips! Ah, you cannot! The life-center, the balance-point, cannot move in a chair. That is one of the great crimes of modern life, one of the murders of ourselves, we sit too much in chairs. We need to stand up.The Ways of White Folks by Langston Hughes.
What are little boys made of? Boys consist of frogs, snails and puppy-dogs’ tails. Richard Wright provides a different perspective in his autobiography Black Boy. Wright offers a poignant, yet compelling narrative of his life in the American south.
Richard Wright grew up in Mississippi facing racism and poverty. Wright’s family struggled to survive. He worked odd jobs and hustled to help his family. Richard showed potential in school. Despite this, teachers discouraged his dream of becoming a writer. He could not accept the rules of engagement for Blacks during Jim Crow. Blacks must work and stay silent to endure segregation.
Wright and his family saved enough money to move to Chicago. He encounters pity, indifference, or contempt. He joined the Communist party and finds a community. He contributed to Communist publications and mentored artists in the party. The Communist party denounced Wright because of his intellectual interests. Ultimately, he leaves the Communist party filled with frustration.
Wright is a very skilful storyteller. The book’s major strength is the dialogue. He offers a very clear voice and descriptive narrative. For example, the passage below offers insight into why writing and literature are so important.
I spent my nights reading Proust’s A Remembrance of Things Past, admiring the lucid, subtle but strong prose, stupefied by its dazzling magic, awed by the vast, delicate, intricate and psychological structure of the Frenchman’s epic of death and decadence. But it crushed me with hopelessness, for I wanted to write of the people in my environment with an equal thoroughness, and the burning example before me eyes made me feel that I never could.
There are segments that contain stream of consciousness writing. Specifically, certain passages ramble endlessly regarding random thoughts. This approach is haphazard in comparison to rest of the text. For example, he is mulling over possibilities in the passage below.
If I passed a Catholic sister or mother dressed in black and smiled and allowed her to see my teeth, I would surely die. If I walked under a ladder, I would certainly have bad luck. If I kissed my elbow, I would turn into a girl …
This passage provides little insight. This is a distraction from the storyline. There is no smooth transition from this segment and the rest of the book. Fortunately, this is only one small part of his work.
Black Boy is a fluent and compelling chronicle. Black Boy offers a vital depiction of an individual’s fight for freedom.