Essay on The Authorial Voice

Essay on The Authorial Voice

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Writing from the soul about one’s own life experiences can take on a much different feeling than any other style of writing. There is an intrinsic, gut-churning feel of risk within the process of telling the truth. A risk that gives a certain adrenaline rush, all while allowing one to reflect. The adventure of sharing ones own story can feel scary and relieving, both chaining and freeing. Harriet Jacobs and John Edgar Wideman undergo this while telling their stories, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (Jacobs) and Our Time (Wideman). Each author is self-conscious throughout their stories. Both authors speak about a minority in their stories; Jacobs speaks of the female slave and Wideman speaks of the African-American gangster. Because they tell the story of a minority to a majority, they can't afford to be misunderstood. They express their point through analysis, but also appeal to the hearts and minds of their audience. Through analysis and rhetorical techniques, which put you in Jacobs’ and Wideman’s shoes, both authors inform the reader of what their lives were like, all while overcoming their individual self-consciousness.
To do so, both authors must bring their readers as close to the slave plantation, ghetto, and the prison cell as possible. To do so, both authors refer to the reader with questions. This rhetorical method forces the reader to place him/herself in the life of the main character. For example, when discussing the abuse she took from her master, Dr. flint, Jacobs asks, "But where could I turn for protection?"(Jacobs 384). Here Jacobs makes the reader understand that the everyday rules that hold true for us, such as police or divorce, didn't apply to her. She makes it clear that she wasn't weak, but just lack...


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...ove. This is evident in the drastic change of tone when he switches voices within the essay. When speaking as himself he speaks in the voice of the scholar. When he speaks as Robby he speaks in the voice of the gangster. This variation is effective because Wideman writes for scholars, not gangsters.
Both essays end unresolved, not because the authors could not resolve them, but because the issues that they wrote about do not have resolutions. I, as a reader, felt left with the same feeeling as both authors, thinking the past can't be erased, roles can't be traded, and sympathy can't be transformed into understanding. But Jacobs and Wideman’s act of writing and publishing their stories is a resolution in itself. Through their writing process they each come to terms with their own lives and find resolution purely in the explanation itself, even if it ends unresolved.

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