The Idea of Ancestry

Decent Essays
Janina Conopio
ENGL 1302 (Omar)
Why “The Idea of Ancestry” Matters Often times a person lives their life based on how their own family would see it. Whether it disappoints or makes their family proud, it is inevitable; a person’s family will forever remain an important factor in their life, actions and the consequences that come with it. In “The Idea of Ancestry”, the author Etheridge Knight writes a poem where it is obvious that he is guilty of his actions and the shame and hurt it brings to his loved ones. Knight is haunted by the faces of his loved ones in his cell, and it is symbolic of the guilt he feels as he sits in prison and contemplates on his bad choices and addiction to heroin. The poem begins by naming all
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In this line it is clear that they no longer want to be associated with Knight. Knight has to turn to the only member of his family who loves him, a seven year old niece. Knight writes that “(she sends me letters written in large block print, and her picture is the only one that smiles at me)” (326). When Knight describes how she is the only one smiling at him it is apparent that she is too young to know what he has done, therefore she doesn’t judge him and still loves him as her uncle. It is also obvious with this line that the niece is the only one who shows compassion towards him because she is the only one who writes letters to him. In the next verse Knight turns to the men in his family but hints that they turned away from him as well. Knight mentions an uncle who one assumes ran away, and “he’s discussed each year when the family has a reunion, he causes uneasiness in the clan, he is an empty space” (327). Similar to the women, Knight feels that the men are also saddened by his actions. Knight confirms this by saying that the uncle that ran away is not in the Family Bible. Knight’s grandmother keeps a bible with everyone’s birth and death dates but the uncle is not included, for “there is no place in her Bible for whereabouts unknown” (327). Even though Knight knows that he let his family down by his actions, he still tries to make up for it by trying to connect with his estranged family. In the third verse Knight mentions “a salmon
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