Essay about Architectural Imagery In 20th Century African American Literature

Essay about Architectural Imagery In 20th Century African American Literature

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The urban landscape is an important entity in African American literature of the early 20th century. Many of the novels explore the theme of the African American migration and settlement in to the urban livelihoods of the North. Creating complex portraits of the urban landscape many depicting hostile, predatory environments, Through the use of setting “The Street”, “Brown Girl, Brownstones “ and “The Native Son” incorporate an over arching importance of architectural imagery and symbolism infused in the tales of the African American struggle of northern livelihood.

“The Native Son” by Paul Dunbar uses Gothic scenery to demonstrate the realistic horrors of life in the north. Through the use of architectural imagery infused with characterization and diction Wright incorporates themes such as paranoia, barbarism and impressibility. From the beginning the darkness and mood of the novel is omniscient and bleak. There is a distinct link between the environment and “monsters”. In the novel it seems as though the setting has a metaphorical relation to the characterization of the individuals in the novel. In the novel the vampire motif is exerted through the use of central scenes and locations. Bigger like a vampire cannot come into the home uninvited. Bigger by crossing or “trespassing” this space ideologically condemned to African –Americans ( i.e. the physical space between Bigger Thomas and Mary Dalton ) has disrupted the social regulations.
These thresholds are sacrosanct; the monstrous "other" cannot enter unwelcome. What is impermissible metaphorically in the novel is the ideological "norms" concerning race and sexuality. To violate or transgress them as Bigger Thomas does uninvited by white authority then, makes it a...


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...mericans find themselves trapped by financial and racial burdens, marginalized in a world where plenty is promised for all.
One particular similarity is the depictions of urban ghettos in all the writings. As readers we are exposed to the true slum living and working conditions that African Americans had come to endure, whether it was in Southside Chicago or Brooklyn, New York. Using the simplest level of architecture and construction, the imagery served as large metaphor for the continuous decay of the protagonists suffering in the environment that paralleled much of their lives. Thus showing to the reader that the pursuit for the ideal of finding a safe haven for an African American [particularly in the Great Migration period ] is one constructed in falsehood, and it is but a dream that will decay and be destroyed in the same sense as the houses they pursue.

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