Racism in Literature

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Bill Frino English 101-K Writing I Dr. J. Showler Research Paper 03/27/07 Racism in Literature “The violence of beast on beast is read As natural law, but upright man Seeks his divinity by inflicting pain.” - “A Far Cry from Africa” In these lines from Derek Walcott’s “A Far Cry from Africa,” the speaker emphasizes the natural human tendencies to “inflict pain.” Similarly, in his poem, “Sympathy,” Paul Dunbar explores pain from the point of view of a bird being trapped in a cage. It flaps its wings and tries to escape but it cannot. The bird symbolizes an African American bound by slavery and unable to escape. On the other hand, in Claude McKay’s poem “The Harlem Dancer,” the dancer feels as if…show more content…
Each time the bird is unable to break free it injures itself, adding to injuries left over from past escape attempts. Dunbar depicts the bird 's hopeless and unsuccessful struggle for freedom. Around this time, the late 18th century, African Americans were released from slavery but they still had limited rights. Restrictions such as The Grandfather Clause and Jim Crow Laws prevented African Americans from reaching their full potential even after the abolishment of slavery. Since there was really nothing that those who were enslaved could do to help their situation, they had to stay strong mentally and physically in order to survive under their harsh conditions. Claude McKay’s “The Harlem Dancer,” focuses on an African American woman performing in a nightclub during a period of time in the 1920’s know as the Harlem Renaissance. She faces the crisis of self-exploitation and perception while exposing her “perfect half-clothed body (line 2)” to those who “toss coins in praise (line 10)” of her dancing. One can conclude from line 14 of the poem, “I knew her self was not in that strange place,” that the dancer feels like a slave to her job in being that perhaps she is doing it against her will. She appears not mentally strong enough to stop doing it. All three of the poems discussed in this essay relate to the struggles suffered by African Americans in the late 18th century to the early 19th century in many different ways. They had to live under harsh
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