This is an expository essay on the writings of W.E. Dubois, Alice Walker, Glenn Loury and Martin Luther Jr. The respective essays are “Of Our Spiritual Strivings”, “In Search of Our Mothers’ Gardens”, “Free at Last? and “Letter From Birmingham Jail”. The assignment is ‘Discuss the nature of the value of the human will in all four essays’. Please use excerpts and examples from the text. Incorporate uses and examples of verbal techniques in these essays, such as metaphor, simile, irony, paradox, symbols and analogies. Dubois’s `Of Our Spiritual Strivings’ is a poem that discusses the duality of human nature. He speaks of the two ways that a Black person views himself; as an American and a Negro. He describes this as `double-consciousness, where the individual looks at himself from the society’s perspective and from his own perspective. According to society, people of the Black race were inferior and `different’, they were looked down upon and treated with contempt just because of their skin color. The writer says that when he was a child his ambition was to become White when he grew up, this is because his view of himself and his skin color had been influenced by the world, to the point that he viewed himself as useless. `One ever feels his two-ness, – an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged little strength is the only thing that keeps it sane..” The `two-ness’ entails hiding certain aspects of one’s personality and portraying the person that the society wants to see. Therefore, it becomes hard for them to know their identities while they are hiding behind the mask that they have created for the society. He says that the African Americans have been used to live behind a `veil’. (DuBois & Lewis 1995).
The veil has been used metaphorically in this case to represent the dualism of African Americans; that are Negroes as well as Americans. The nature of the value of the human will is illustrated when DuBois explains his commitment towards the integration of the White and Black race. He is determined that the problems of racism and discrimination shall be overcome in the new America and that both races shall one day reconcile. Works, culture, liberty, are viewed as dimensions that compliment each other thus it’s irrelevant to separate them. In addition, it is notable that they all aid each other in facilitating the attainment of humanity and idealism. Idealism in this sense entails the unification of the Negro race will help it develop itself in terms of talent and traits.
In large conformity to the greater that are held in honor by the United States Republic, there is held he hope in the mind of many that. some day on American soil two of the races in the Country would treat each other in a manner that has not been exhibited .Martin Luther King’s `Letter from Birmingham Jail’ uses the literary technique of pathos to evoke the reader’s emotions. In this letter, he demonstrates that if the human will is strong enough, an individual(s) can usually get the results that he desires. It is all a matter of identifying one’s desire and working hard towards it. He compares his commitment to spreading the gospel of freedom to the Biblical characters; Jesus, Paul and 8th century prophets. He says, “Just as the eighth century prophets left their little villages and carried their thus saith the Lord.
Martin Luther King’s ‘Letter from Birmingham Jail’ uses the literary technique of pathos to evoke the reader’s emotions. In this letter, he demonstrates that if the human will is strong enough, an individual(s) can usually get the results that he desires. It is all a matter of identifying one’s desire and working hard towards it. He compares his commitment to spreading the gospel of freedom to the Biblical characters; Jesus, Paul and 8th century prophets. He says, “Just as the eighth century prophets left their little villages and carried their thus saith the Lord’ far beyond the boundaries of their home towns; and just as the Apostle Paul left his little village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to practically every hamlet and city of the Graeco-Roman world, I too am compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my particular home town. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.” (King, 1968). King uses the style of directly addressing the reader and posing rhetorical questions that create the effect of a dialogue between the reader and the writer. This is done to make the reader think deeply about the subject matter and thus increase the impact of the writing. An example of this is shown in the lines; “You may well ask: ‘Why direct action? … is not negotiation a better path?’ You are quite right in calling, for negotiation.”
Alice Walker’s ‘In Search of our Mother’s Garden is also an essay that describes the difficulties that is faced by Blacks and women in particular. It details the perseverance and strength that Black women possess that has enabled them to survive and overcome the challenges that they encounter. Despite the fact that they were viewed as ‘the mule of the world’ this women had a strong will. They did not allow it to break them down but instead held onto their creativity. Walker increases the effectiveness of the essay by using her own mother as an example of this resilience, thus the reader develops a connection with the writer. “Guided by my heritage of a love of beauty and respect for strength—in search of my mother’s garden, I found my own.” (Walker, 1983). Society prohibited women from displaying their creativity thus the writer’s mother used her garden as an outlet for her creativity, it is this creativity that inspired the writer to beat all odds and become the writer that she is today.
The writer also speaks about Alice Wheatley, a poor slave girl who in her poetry seemed to idolize White people, because of the mentality that had been imposed on her that Whites were more superior. Walker emphasizes the fact that she persevered many hardships and kept her creativity alive and through it many other Black women and girls were encouraged to explore their creativity. To make these writings more effective and credible, Walker quotes from different sources and narrates the story figuratively and in detail, how these women were able to deal with the suppression and creativity.
Glenn Loury’s ‘Free at last? A personal perspective on race and identity in America’ discusses the nature of the value of the human will as the writer addresses the issues of racism and discrimination especially towards Blacks. The writer uses Woody to illustrate the problem of Black stereotyping and discrimination among the Black community in America. He says that Woody’s ‘lack of social confirmation for his subjective sense of self left him uncertain, at a deep level, about who he really was. Ultimately there seemed to be no way for him to avoid living fraudulently — either as a black passing for white, or as a white trying (too hard) to be black. As his close friend and frequent companion, I had become familiar with, and occasionally shared in, the pitfalls of this situation. People would assume when they saw us together both that he was white, and that I was “the kind of Negro who hangs out with white boys.” (Loury, 1995). I resented that assumption.’ He states that all Americans should be take accountability for their own actions as opposed to blaming it on their race. The writer urges the reader to rethink his perspective towards other races; be they White, Black or Biracial.
These four works of literature discuss the issues of racism and discrimination and the common element in all of them is that the writers not only talk about the negative impacts of this racism but they also express a strong determination the mentalities that have caused these vices. The writers are all African-Americans; this makes the writings more credible as they write from their own experiences as Blacks living in America.
Du Bois, W. E. &Lewis, D. L.,. Du Bois: a reader, Wisconsin, USA: H. Holt and Co., 1995.
King, M. L., Letter from Birmingham Jail, Overbrook Press, Virginia, USA: 1968.
Walker, A., In search of our mothers’ gardens: womanist prose, New York, US: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983.
Loury, G. C., One by one from the inside out: essays and reviews on race and responsibility in America, New York, US: Free Press, 1995.