Double-Conciousness in The Souls of Black Folk by W.E.B. Du Bois
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“BETWEEN me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: unasked by some through feelings of delicacy; by others through the difficulty of rightly framing it….instead of saying directly, How does it feel to be a problem? They say, I know an excellent colored man in my town; or, I fought at Mechanicsville; or, Do not these Southern outrages make your blood boil (Du Bois 1)?” In “The Souls of Black Folk” W.E.B. Du Bois raises awareness to a psychological challenge of African Americans, known as “double - consciousness,” as a result of living in two worlds: the world of the predominant white race and the African American community. As defined by Du Bois, double-consciousness is a:
…sense of always looking at one’s self through the eyes of others, of measuring one’s soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness, -an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder. (Du Bois 1)
In other words, double-consciousness can be described as an attempt to make peace with the clashing values of African heritage and European upbringing within an African American individual. Such an obstacle has the potential to be quite damaging to one’s sense of identity. The psychological theory of double-consciousness can be explored in the writings of African American authors. The works of Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God and the first chapter of Ralph Ellison’s The Invisible Man demonstrate the challenging collision of two cultures within the protagonists shaping their identities, and surprisingly aiding them to achieve a stronger sense of self than...
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... clashing African culture with European upbringing in African American individuals. Double-consciousness has a potential to be damaging to the individual should the perception of others influence one’s self-perception. Through the evaluation of the works “The Eyes Are Watching God” and “The Invisible Man” the collision of ideals are illustrated shaping the identities of the protagonists and being transformed into a source of strength rather than weakness.
Du Bois, W.E.B. "Chapter 1: Of Our Spiritual Strivings." The Souls of Black Folk. New York: New American Library, 1969. 1-3. Print.
Ellison, Ralph. Invisible Man Chapter 1. The Norton Anthology of American Literature.By Nina Baym. 8th ed. Vol. 2. New York [u.a.: Norton, 2013. 1211-221. Print.
Hurston, Zora Neale. Their Eyes Were Watching God. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics, 2006. Print.