Symbolism In Alex Haley's The Autobiography Of Malcolm X?

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Symbolism plays an important part in every piece of literature. Alex Haley’s The Autobiography of Malcolm X displays many different symbols that offer insight into his life. These symbols demonstrate the changes that he went through during his dramatic change from who the world viewed as a nobody to one of the most controversial and influential men during the civil rights movement. Alex Haley paints a vivid picture of how status became an important part of Malcolm X’s life. The author explores how the simple hair straightening process called conk tied him to the Caucasian world. Finally, Haley points out the significance of how eyeglasses, watches, and suitcases play a significant role in Malcolm X’s life, by being the only items that…show more content…
Going into confinement, he was a man without ambition, one all about status. In spite of his prison sentence he emerged a man with a determination, ready to take control of his life. Leaving prison Malcom purchased three things. First, he acquired eyeglasses. Recounting why they were suddenly a necessity Malcolm discloses, “I had come to prison with 20/20 vision. But when I got sent back to Charlestown, I had read so much by the lights-out glow in my room at the Norfolk Prison Colony that I had astigmatism and the first pair of the eyeglasses that I have worn ever since” (Haley 209). Malcolm’s astigmatism was a result of all the reading he did. While in prison, he found a hunger for reading, because he thirsted for knowledge. His eyeglasses epitomize his devotion to learning. Secondly, he procured a watch. Growing up owning a watch was never required. Malcolm did not have any reason to keep track of time. Whereas, when he left prison and joined the Nation of Islam, he established a direction for his life, and found himself beginning to live by his watch. He mentions, “You won’t find anybody more time-conscious than I am. I live by my watch, keeping appointments. Even when I’m using my car, I drive by my watch, not my speedometer. Time is more important to me than distance” (Placeholder1). Time in Malcolm’s life symbolize the new found purpose he discovered in his life. Lastly, he purchased two…show more content…
Throughout each stage of his existence there are a multitude of symbols that are made evident. Haley shows how status played a major role in developing Malcolm’s self-worth. The author explains how a “conk” hairstyle tied him to the white world and showed him his own internalized racism. The writer also demonstrates how eyeglasses, a watch, and suitcases played a major role in his final transformation to the great leader that he made himself into. All of these symbols work together through the captivating tale of his life, and illustrates the many things that helped to shape him as a man. All things considered, Haley reveals just how critical symbols are in not only Malcolm X’s lives, but in everyone’s lives. Ultimately challenging his readers to look at their own lives in an attempt to discover what their personal symbols are. Malcolm X’s life had many challenges and setbacks, nevertheless, he discovered who he wanted to be and rose to the challenge, proving himself an important and influential
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