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The Theme of the Veil in W.E.B. Du Bois' Souls of Black Folk

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"For now we see through a glass, darkly"
--Isiah 25:7

W.E.B. Du Bois's Souls of Black Folk, a collection of autobiographical
and historical essays contains many themes. There is the theme of souls and
their attainment of consciousness, the theme of double consciousness and the
duality and bifurcation of black life and culture; but one of the most striking
themes is that of "the veil." The veil provides a link between the 14 seemingly
unconnected essays that make up The Souls of Black Folk. Mentioned at least once
in most of the 14 essays it means that, "the Negro is a sort of seventh son,
born with a veil, and gifted with second sight in this American world, -a world
with yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself
through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this
double consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the
eyes of others."Footnote1 The veil is a metaphor for the separation and
invisibility of black life and existence in America and is a reoccurring theme
in books abo ut black life in America.

Du Bois's veil metaphor, "In those somber forests of his striving his
own soul rose before him, and he saw himself, -darkly as though through a
veil"Footnote2, is a allusion to Saint Paul's line in Isiah 25:7, "For now we
see through a glass, darkly."Footnote3 Saint Paul's use of the veil in Isiah and
later in Second Corinthians is similar to Du Bois's use of the metaphor of the...

... middle of paper ...

...Souls of Black Folk (New York: Bantam Company, 1989) xxxi.


Ibid., 3.


Ibid., 147.


Ibid., 151.


Ibid., 153.


Ibid., xxxii.


Ibid., 187.


August Meier, Negro thought in America 1880-1915 (Ann Arbor: University of
Michigan Press, 1966) 230-232.


Paula Giddings, When and Where I Enter (New York: Quill William Morrow, 1984)
184. Paula Giddings points out how black women were stereotyped into three
categories, the sexless suffering Aunt Jamima, the seductive temptress Jezebel,
and the evil manipulative Sapphire. These are just some of the negative
stereotypes of Blacks that formed on the white side of the veil.

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