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Mr. Z by M. Carl Holman

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Mr. Z by M. Carl Holman


Poetry can sometimes be interpreted easily and other times it is difficult to find the meaning. In the poem "Mr. Z" by M. Carl Holman, the meaning is quite distinct. It describes an African American mans life and his constant effort to be part of the white race.
In the first line of the poem "Mr. Z," "Taught early that his mother's skin was the sign of error," insinuates that from the very beginning he was taught that being African-American was an "error" or unacceptable. This false message impacted him his entire life. He tried to "act white," he did this by the way "He dressed and spoke with the perfect honor." This implied that he dressed the way someone of the Caucasian race would dress and act. He then "Won Scholarships, attended the best schools," education was unheard of for most African-Americans especially college. He "Disclaimed kinship with jazz and spirituals;" both of these traditions were a great part of the African culture, yet he did not take part in them.
His views against being African American only grew stronger with his age. "In diet, too, his practiced was exemplary:" he became an "expert in vintage wines, sauces and salads," all of which are cuisine of the European culture not heard of in the African culture.
He chose his bride carefully, "had somewhere lost her Jewishness." His wife also tried to deny her heritage she hid her religion, which is similar to him denying he was African-American. "Choosing the right addresses, here, abroad," this stipulates they moved into a neighborhood where they would not be confronted with their race or creed. They tried to blend in where ever they went trying not to draw attention to themselves. In a sense they were hiding their true identities.
"And so he climbed, unclogged by ethnic weights," he prospered despite his race. The fact that he was African-American never "weighted down" what he wanted to do.
The irony of this poem is what happens to him when he dies "Not one false note was struck-until he died…The obit writers, ringing crude clumsy changes on a clumsy phrase: "One of the most distinguished members of his race." His entire life he tried to hide the fact he was African-American yet after all the hard work he ends up being "the most distinguished members of his race" this is the antithesis of what he spent his whole life trying to run away from, eventually caught up to him in the end.




Bibliography:

sound and sense volume 9

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