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Existentialism In Coates Between The World And Me

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Although the fundamentals of existentialism can be applied to numerous works throughout history, existentialist thought, which places emphasis on authenticity and the ability to control one’s own growth, largely rose to prominence in the 18th and 19th centuries. Notable among these works are Voltaire’s Candide, Simone de Beauvoir’s The Second Sex, and Ta-Nehisi Coates’ Between the World and Me. Although all three texts span dramatically different time periods, the themes of existentialism and free will remain consistent in opposition to the despair and pessimism that life ultimately imposes on us all. According to The Second Sex and Candide, we must work towards our happiness and fundamentally seek it out on our own, while Coates claims in…show more content…
Coates’ allegory of the “Dreamers” and their detrimental impact on the lives of African Americans in the US is highlighted with this declaration: “But do not pin your struggle on their conversion. The Dreamers will have to learn to struggle themselves, to understand that the field for their Dream, the stage where they have painted themselves white, is the deathbed of us all” (151). Coates is essentially claiming that the people who refuse to live in reality are subsequently robbing those who do because they instill a sense of false hope and unrealistic expectations that make every injury inflicted upon the African American community hurt even more. By extension, Coates is affirming that living in the moment rather than always thinking about the future and how to make things better is the most authentic route to happiness. Much of the misery in life derives from people in power abusing the privileges society has granted them, and the exploitation of black people in American society has solidified the idea that civilization breeds barbarism in Coates’ mind. This is further supported by Coates’ assertion that, “The enslaved were not bricks in your road, and their lives were not chapters in your redemptive history. They were people turned to fuel for the American machine” (70). This image of black lives being chewed up and spit out by industrial America is visceral and jarring in that it shows a complete failure on the civilization’s part to protect and raise its citizens to a more prominent status and improve their lives. To Coates, the ideas of patriotism and “the Dream,” or
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