Defining Moments in Song of Solomon, Push, and Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas

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Defining Moments in Song of Solomon, Push, and Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglas

For those who bask in the light of privilege in the dominant culture, they take for granted their right to assert themselves and to be acknowledged as "somebody who matters". For those who live in the shadowy margins (such as the American poor and/or minorities), they experience the systematic denial of the basic human rights - to live at one's fullest potential, in other words, an outright denial from living a "dignified life". Such a denial might cause one to feel "voiceless and choiceless" (Objective 1b). It has been the minority's experience, (historically and in the present day) that the right to achieve one's full potential is kept just out of reach. Minorities must first fight for survival. Then, if there is enough energy and hope remaining, they can strive to utilize vehicles of assimilation or resistance (Objective 4) in order to carve a place for themselves in the world. However, this does not mean that a full realization of the "American dream" is even possible. For every small victory, there remains a bitter aftertaste. In other words, for every step gained, there is a "personal or cultural sacrifice" (Objective 4). Meanwhile, on the journey to freedom, the individual is plagued with 'ghosts' of the past. These 'hauntings' can appear in the form of individual/family oppression: (knowledge of emotional pain, physical violence) or in the form of a historical haunting: (i.e. knowledge that your ancestor was a slave; the traditional family unit broken)(Objective 3). These disturbances continue to surface and demand to be worked through, thus a 'haunting' is another factor that holds one back from achieving their full potential.

Whether oppression comes from a large, historical institution such as slavery, or from inter-family abuse, it is the process of suppression that I am exploring in this essay. The process of oppression is where families or institutions withhold or prevent one's self-worth or self-identity to develop. I will explore the personal journeys of the following characters; 1) Frederick Douglas from The Classic Slave Narratives, 2) Milkman from Song of Solomon, 3) Precious from Push, noting how they all share a common path through the darkness of oppression towards the ability to assert their self-identity.
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