Autobiography Of An Ex-Colored Man Essay

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The narrator of The Autobiography of an Ex-colored Man was born to a “colored” mother and white father. This combination of his identity led him to encounter many internal and external challenges. Physically he appeared white, so he experienced being able to “pass” as both “colored” or white whenever he wished. Being able do such a thing, the narrator struggled with racial boundaries. He embodied almost every permutation, intentional or unintentional, of the experience when encountering various racial (white and “colored”) communities, eventually deciding to pass as white at the end of the novel. Due to cowardice, instead of representing his race, he suppressed the African-American part of his identity and destroyed his chances of achieving true contentedness and self-awareness. “Passing” was a common theme seen in many novels that came to relevance during the Harlem Renaissance. This phenomenon dealt with the impermeability of racial boundaries when a person with any amount of African-American blood was considered “colored””. The narrator dealt with this complicated aspect of his life through innumerable experiences while being a part of white and “colored” communities. Although his mother was “colored”, his father, who was absent during his childhood, was a white man. In spite of of his “colored” roots, the narrator had the advantage of outwardly appearing white, thus being able to pass as a white man whenever he desired. He often considered his meaningful African-American origin, but typically resorted to associating with the white race: eventually suppressing the “colored” element of his identity completely. The narrator was unaware of his “colored” origin early on in his life. He was observant of his surroundings, but never... ... middle of paper ... ...ith the “colored” people: he chose to disassociate. The narrator of The Autobiography of an Ex-colored Man decided not to fight for racial equality in America for his fellow African-American, or even for himself, but rather conformed with the white majority thus selecting the uncomplicated path: the path that would lead him to security and safety in the years to come. After struggling with his identity in the white and African-American community as a “colored” man who could pass as white, he decided to discard his “colored” roots and stick with his white origin. By doing such a thing, he was able to live a simple, respectful, and safe life, but he abandoned a very significant part of his identity. He felt slight remorse towards the end of the novel, but self-interest held more importance to him than embracing the cultural heritage of the African-American community.
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