Literary Analysis of “Between the World and Me” By Richard Wright

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The past persists in disclosing the forgotten injustices suffered in sacrifice for the preceding generations. In doing so, the grief and mourning in the present invades the soul following the physical evidence of torment undiluted with time. In “Between the World and Me”, Richard Wright identifies the universal truth that in order to truly understand another person's suffering, one must move from mere sympathy to empathy with the sufferer through numerous literary intentions.
Wright utilizes personification to provide the narrator with an amplified empathy through the personal reflection required in order to experience the sympathetic suffering accounted for by the physical remnants of a lynching. In the beginning of the poem, the speaker describes the scene as “guarded by scaly oaks and elms” (ln. 2) thereby stating nature guards and preserves memories of the atrocities of society, despite certain distortions associated with time. By presenting the woods with this lively quality, Wright emphasizes the eerie qualities of the world in preserving the scars of inhumane acts dealt through society’s hand. Once recognizing nature’s preservation of the memories, Wright implies that the speaker remains capable to unearth the scene in which they are to experience sympathy and empathy. The speaker then discovers “white bones slumbering” (ln.4) which presents the bones with the human ability of sleeping. This in return suggests an ironic twist crucial to the development of the poem. By suggesting the bones are in mere rest, this also renders bones capable of awaking from their rest. As the speaker continues, the bones as well as the other elements described suddenly “awake” and reform thereby creating a shift in the visual experience of the...

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... imagines the suffering of the lynching and its impact on them as “Now I am dry bones and my face a stony skull” (line 30), thus recognizing the true potential of sympathy and empathy as far as the human experience and emotions are concerned.
Richard Wright’s intentional figurative language presents the correlation between sympathy and empathy given the remains of the injustices dealt in the past. Understanding the connections between the past and present enable a growth in character development as well as honoring those who suffered before. In a global context, many individuals suffer from inhumane deeds stemming from certain discriminations and prejudices towards brutal dictatorships. Only in experiencing empathy may the extremity of the suffering bear the true sympathy and equate to a recognition of the sacrifices forever scarring society’s corrupted judgments.

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