The Best American Essays Of The Century By Robert Atwan

Good Essays

Throughout the 1900’s, America has grown exponentially in its values, struggles, and art. The Best American Essays of the Century, written by Robert Atwan, showcases the progress this country has made through a series of essays ordered chronologically. Although many underlying topics existed in these pieces, three common themes particularly stood out. In “How It Feels to Be Colored Me” by Zora Neale Hurston, “The Old Stone House” by Edmund Wilson, and “The Handicapped” by Randolph Bourne, identity is an important subject. Injustice is a clearly shared theme in “Coatesville” by John Jay Chapman, “The Devil Baby at Hull-House” by Jane Addams, and “Of the Coming of John” by W.E.B. Du Bois. Finally, in “Corn-pone Opinions” by Mark Twain, “Tradition and the Individual Talent” by T.S. Eliot, and “What Are Masterpieces and Why Are There So Few of Them” by Gertrude Stein, the aspect of non-personality and the removal of one’s self seems to be commonly spoken of in terms of creation.

The first motif, identity, appears initially in “How It Feels to Be Colored Me” where it says, “But I am not tragically colored. There is no great sorrow damned up in my soul, nor lurking behind my eyes. I do not mind at all.” (p. 115) Here, it is obvious that the author holds no shame in her skin nor self. She is proud of who she is despite the prejudice some hold against her. Hurston identifies as colored and does not care what others think. Her identity is unwavering. Also applicable to this idea is

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