Comparing Language in Baby of the Family and Black Girl Lost

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Function of Language in Baby of the Family and Black Girl Lost

African American literature is a genre that has, in recent years, grown almost exponentially. African American novels such as Tina McElroy Ansa's Baby of the Family and Donald Goines' Black Girl Lost are increasingly becoming more popular with the public. Baby of the Family is a wonderfully written "coming of age novel" ("Reviews 2") about a young girl named Lena McPherson as she grows up and must learn to deal with her extraordinary powers. Much unlike this, Black Girl Lost is a "shocking novel" (Goines 208) about a young girl named Sandra, who is forced to live on the streets. Though each of these novels is unique in their own aspect, a common bond can be established between the two through the use of language employed in the text. Because of the various functions that language can serve in literature, it is a rather "fascinating phenomenon" (Blackshire-Belay 1) to study in reference to these two novels. In both Baby of the Family and Black Girl Lost, language is used to reflect the speech patterns of the minority culture, as a portrayal of different worlds within the novels, and acts as a mirror to the life of the main character in order to navigate plot speed.

Language can be defined as "a regularized symbolic code that connects its users in a symbiosis of substance" (Blackshire-Belay 1). Not only are we produced by language, but we produce through language (Blackshire-Belay 1). In other words, language is a very integral part of our lives, especially in literature. It can even be said that literature, "in its most profound sense, is the most complex use of language to create meaning" (Blackshire-Belay 4). Therefore, its importance should not be looked upon lightly. In both Baby of the Family and Black Girl Lost, it seems that language is being used in order to convey the minority experience to readers, whether they be of the African American race or the dominant culture. To accomplish this, each novel displays Africanisms, or qualities that are very common in the African American language. These qualities include emphatic speech such as double negatives, call and response phrases and also metaphorical language.
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