Themes Of Social Darwinism And The Black Community Essay

Themes Of Social Darwinism And The Black Community Essay

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Themes include social Darwinism, which metaphorically encourages individuals to fight to the finish in order to receive rewards. The ways in which the black community’s strongest and wildest members take advantage of their fellows, refusing to cooperate against the common white enemy just as Tatlock refuses to fake defeat; the corrupting influence of prizes and praise on the narrator himself; and the need for the white establishment to maintain symbolic as well as literal power over the black community. The Narrator wants to be a good member of his family and community but fails to understand the poisonous effect that southern race relations have on even such simple acts as delivering a harmless graduation speech. The story makes clear just what the narrator will face in his maturity. Ellison involves the reader so deeply in the experiences of his narrator that one shares both his pain and his confusion and uncertainty. The innocence and decency of the narrator, who is simply trying to do the right thing, are so effectively conveyed that readers of all races and cultures can understand the special problems that he faces.
The narrator speaks of his grandparents, freed slaves who, after the Civil War, believed that they were separate but equal—that they had achieved equality with whites despite segregation. The narrator’s grandfather lived a meek and quiet life after being freed. Grandfather episodes provides his interpretations that drives much of the novel, which is a study of a native young man who is wounded by racism but unsure how to respond. The narrator’s grandfather introduces a further element of moral and emotional uncertainty to the novel, contributing to the mode of questioning that dominates it. The grandfather’s des...


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...n. Although the narrator never actually names Washington directly, his speech contains long quotations from the great reformer’s Atlanta Exposition Address of 1895. Washington’s program for the advancement of black Americans emphasized industrial education. He believed that blacks should avoid clamoring for political and civil rights and put their energy instead toward achieving economic success. He believed that if blacks worked hard and proved themselves, whites would grant them equality.
His grandfather instructs him to open the briefcase. Inside the narrator finds an official envelope with a state seal. He opens it only to find another envelope, itself containing another envelope. The last one contains an engraved document reading: “To Whom It May Concern . . . Keep This Nigger-Boy Running.” The narrator wakes with his grandfather’s laughter ringing in his ears.

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