Flying Home

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"Flying Home": a Living Story. Ralph Waldo Ellison is perhaps one of the most influential African-American writers of the twentieth century. Ellison is best known for writing about such topics as self-awareness, identity, and the racial repression of African-Americans in the United States. His masterpiece, Invisible Man, chronicles the story of a young man striving to find himself in a world where he is hardly noticed. This novel won him much respect in the eyes of the literary community. Earlier in his career, Ellison also wrote many influential short stories. "Flying Home", is one of Ellison’s stories that call the attention of all concerned with the basic essence of human freedom. In "Flying Home", Ellison creates a provocative statement about the Black situation in the south in the 1940’s that is rich with symbolism and personal experience. Born on March 1, 1914, in Oklahoma, Ellison was raised in an environment that promoted self-fulfillment. His father, who named his son after Ralph Waldo Emerson and hoped to raise him as a poet, died when Ellison was three. Ellison’s mother enlisted blacks into the Socialist Party and was also a domestic worker. In the early 1930s, Ellison won a scholarship to Alabama’s Tuskegee Institute, where he studied music until 1936(Busby 10). Later, to earn money for his education (after a mix-up regarding his scholarship), he traveled to New York, where he met Richard Wright and became involved in the Federal Writer’s Project. Encouraged to write a review for New Challenge, a publication edited by Wright, Ellison began composing essays and stories focusing on the strength of the human spirit and the necessity of racial pride. It was during this time that Ellison composed "Flying Home." "Flying Home", is the story of a young man who is one of a very small number of African-American pilots in World War II. The story begins as the young man, named Todd, crashes his trainer plane into a Southern crop field. Injured and unable to move, Todd is helped by one of the field workers, a black man named Jefferson. Todd, a man of the "white" world is overcome by feelings of disgust by the appearance and demeanor of Jefferson. Todd feels physically ill from having to deal with someone of such low class. At this early point in the story the reader wonders why Todd, a black man, would show such terrible feelings toward someone of his own race.

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