Whites

All posts in the Whites category

The Racism in Tarzan, Heart of Darkness, Captain Horn

Published May 2, 2017 by lorijss

 

Tarzan, from the animated Disney’s version to the most recent 2016 installment seems to cut out the racist components of the 1912 novel. With the animation editing out blacks entirely and the latest movie discarding the racism of the novel, the question remains as to whether this can be done without wiping out the existence and purported essence of Tarzan. In Tarzan of the Apes by Edgar Borroughs, blacks are seen as barbaric, “savages” with the ape-reared male elevated above the natives with no basis other than because the author said so. However, Tarzan was not unique for In The Adventures of Captain Horn by Frank Stockton which was published in 1895, the Africans are also called “savage” and “half—tamed,” and planted in the narrative for comedic entertainment. Immediately, one can see a correlation between racism and entertainment with the more racist equaling the more entertaining based on the authorship. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, published in 1899 has a more serious undertone whilst still depicting blacks as subhuman and “niggers” which may have costed it it’s effectiveness. It’s important that white  or non-black readers do not read over these stereotypical views and also not take them lightly. That way closer inspection reveal that these novels are not as good they could have been without the distasteful racist parts. Fiction is better when it’s grounded in reality. All three of the action and or adventure texts, Tarzan, Captain Horn and Heart of Darkness regardless of their genre, portray stereotypical views of blacks or Africans as unintelligent, barbaric, wild and subhuman, thereby eluding the common sense of these persons, their subjective perspectives and overall veritableness.

 

The Adventures of Captain Horn

 

Throughout Captain Horn the supposed Africans are viewed as the same.

When the captain was told of “strange thing,” his reaction was a generalization—“another African!” After Mrs. Cliff and her companions insist that it wasn’t a Native Indian, they said “almost in the same breath..it was an African, exactly like Maka.” The conversation exemplifies a lack of experience or familiarity and possibly an obsession when they say, “you know they’re very dark.” Africans are just like one another. What are the chances that after stumbling upon a new land that he’d find a black person that looks exactly like Maka? It’s ironic that Mrs. Cliff and her companions in the “same breath” are also similar.

           The alleged “African” characters are depicted in an emasculated manner. When the author states, “Making a step toward him, the captain saw that he(Maka) had hold of another man, several feet below him, and that he could not pull him up.

“Hold on tight, Maka,” he cried, and then, taking hold of the African’s shoulders, he gave one mighty heave, lifted both men, and set them on their feet beside him.” Maka is the one that does all the manual labor for the Captain so logically he would not be the one to have the strength to lift both men.

The black characters are always depicted as frightened and scared. An example is, “The new African was sitting on the ground, as far back from the edge of the ledge as he could get, shivering and shaking, for the water was cold. He had apparently at reached the culmination and termination of his fright.” You can see that this “new African” is also authored as fearful like Maka. Keep in mind that they are socialized in two different parts of the word.  Here is another example, “The shivering negro had been listening attentively, and now half rose and nodded his head violently, and then began to speak rapidly in African.” Firstly the description is ironic and not realistic for one to go from “shivering” to “nodding head violently.” With this superficial description of the character’s speech, the reader is forced to think in stereotypes. There are thousands of African languages that were and still are spoken across the continent.

         The “Africans” are always placed at impending danger zones as tools for the initiation of a scene that makes Horn seem brave. It is interesting that the author describes Maka for example, has being fearful but put him the closest to danger. “Maka can sleep in the hall to keep out burglars.(17)” If he is indeed the most scared why would Captain Horn place him where he would be the first to face the onset of danger. Another instance: “then suddenly a scrambling sound of footsteps was heard, and Maka dashed through the two adjoining apartments and appeared before them. Instantly the captain was on his feet, his gun, which had been lying beside him, in his hand.” In this scene the captain is portrayed as being brave because he has a gun. That eludes the fact that anyone can sport a gun. It continues that “the captain satisfied himself with leaving Mok at his former post, with instructions to give the alarm if he heard the slightest sound, and put Maka, as before, in the outer passage.” Maka is placed in the latter passage which is the most exposed part of the vicinity.

Lines like “As soon as the negro saw him, he began to beckon wildly for him to come on,” and five black men in a state of mad excitement” are exaggerated and misinterpreted behavioral expressions of the “Africans.” “Some more Africans have turned up. Maka has gone to meet them…”  This phrase assumes that Maka would automatically run towards the Africans of the land he just arrived on with Captain Horn, like long lost brothers. Once again we find Maka being put at the forefront where if Captain Horn were really the brave one he would take the initiative and “go to meet them.” The lack of sufficient interpretation of Africans is evident when, “…the other African, Mok, sat crouched on his heels, his eyes wide open. Whether he was asleep or not it would have been difficult to determine, but if anyone had appeared in the great cleft on the other side of the lake, he would have sprung to his feet with a yell—his fear of the Rackbirds was always awake.” It’s not clear why it would be difficult to know whether Mok is sleeping or not. It implies that the author is lacking in skills of interpreting or observing behavior.  Again we see assumptions of fear.

Statements to describe black characters in the novel are geared towards “exclusion” or “differentiation.”  Take for example this statement by Captain Horn. “Now we can take it easy to-day, and rest our bones. The order of the day is to keep close…Keep those four niggers up in the pigeonhole.” The use of the word, “those” imply that they are seen as “the other” —differentiated and excluded despite being used for manual labor. Horn continues, “We will do our own cooking to-day, for we can’t afford to run after any more of them. Lucky the fellow who got away can’t speak English, for he can’t tell anything about us, any more than if he was an ape.”  Needless to state, the racism—someone doesn’t speak English they are inferior and the comparison to an ape. We already know that the Captain must’ve had incompetency for learning the languages of the African. For he sees no problem that Maka would know his language but he not know Maka’s at all. When Horn said, “You are a good fellow, Maka,” that quite frankly is a racist statement. The reason is that there is an implication that all blacks are “bad” for him to be making statements such as, “Apart from his being such an abject coward, he seems to be a good, quiet fellow, willing to do what he is told…(83)” The white characters would also say things like “ those black fellows(72)”and “those colored people(73)” after they brought all the food and provisions to them. They are viewed as “the other” and different even though they take care of them. There is a lot of name calling of blacks such as “coal-black heathen(93)”

Blacks wanting to find “good white people” to “take care of them” lacks plausibility as there is no textual evidence of this want. Examine: “The Africans went to a spot..and there they hid themselves, and watched as long as it was daylight…But they saw nothing, and being very anxious to find good white people who would take care of them, they started out before dawn that morning to look for the shipwrecked party…whom they hoped to find their companion Mok.” Maka does the physical work for the crew so it is he that takes care of the captain and the crew. In essence it is the white people that seek blacks to “take care of them,” constantly throughout the novel. When the captain and his crew were soon going to be without food, Maka proposed that he and the rest of the “black fellows” bring some supplies.(60)” Upon return, “The negroes were heavily loaded with bags and packages, and they were glad to deposit their burdens on the ground.(60)” This show us that it’s blacks that are taking care of the whites.

Voices added to the African characters are inauthentic, similar to Captain Horn. For example, “Yes,” replied the African. “One day before, three went out to look for Mok, and they found his track and more track, and they waited in the black darkness.” It is unlikely that an African would say this statement because growing up in The Caribbean or South American climate, the natives would be accustomed to the black darkness at night which is apart of their environment. The African is speaking about the darkness of the night as if it is strange or new and he fears it. These inauthentic voices do not reflect the cultural-environment. In Europe it snows and the atmosphere becomes brighter outside at night when it snows, so the night is shorter and looks like day. Tropical climates have not only longer nights but darker nights all year round with apparently no snow.

The strength of Mok and Maka are underestimated despite the manual labor Stockton depicts them doing throughout the novel. “Maka, that is a fine lot of fire-wood you have brought. It will last us a long time,” said Horn. Maka who seems to have carried a bunch of firewood should imply his strength but earlier on he was not able to lift two men. It’s more likely that Captain Horn would not be able to have the strength to do the latter as throughout the book he only lifts a gun. This is portrayed as if it takes the same strength to lift a weapon as to lift firewood.

Mok and Maka are also given similar sounding names and that eludes to the fact that the author strives to make them all the more alike. Mok is pronounced the same as Muck whose googled definition is “dirt, rubbish, waste manner.” Clearly, even the names of the characters are of a underlying, racist origin.

Tarzan

            In Tarzan, there are exaggerated and clearly stereotypically racist descriptions of the appearance of “Africans.” Case in point, “Their yellow teeth were filed to sharp points, and their great protruding lips added…to the low and bestial brutishness of their appearance.” It assumes that appearance has anything to do with behavior when he states “bestial brutishness.” It edges the reader to accept that physical appearance are of any intrinsic value in determining a person’s character. The author adds judgements to physical appearances as if there are any basic correlation between the two. He also assumes that appearances of the natives has anything to do with the observer.

Tarzan behavior towards the Natives shows but an insult of their intelligence, despite the fact that apes raised him, according to the novel’s premise. “Without haste he wrapped them securely, and then, ere he turned to leave, the devil of capriciousness entered his heart. He looked about for some hint of a wild prank to play upon these strange, grotesque creatures that they might be again aware of his presence among them.(111)” So when Tarzan is around Africans a devil enters his heart. It’s interesting that the author makes Tarzan first experience with an African be when his ape mother is murdered with a bow and arrow. He could have easily been exposed to the natives before that tragedy. The existence of Tarzan rests partly if not solely on racism. It would be more likely that the natives would have found him—”aware of his presence” and brought him up in human culture.

Like Captain Horn, blacks in Tarzan are depicted as fearful and also emasculated. When the natives found out that their arrows were missing—“thoroughly awed and frightened group of savages”(105). When the village found out that Mbonga died, “They stood in little groups, talking in low tones, and ever casting affrighted glances behind them from their great rolling eyes.”(105)” Anyone with common sense would know that if a prominent person has been murdered in a village then that would be the last reaction. There would be sadness, revenge, an investigation etc.   Fearfulness is then taken to a new level—  without logical reason. “He was moving carelessly along a winding jungle trail…, when suddenly he came face to face with a black warrior. The look of surprise on the savage face was almost com- ical, and before Tarzan could unsling his bow the fellow had turned and ed down the path crying out in alarm as though to others before him. (133)” While we know that Tarzan is fiction this particular scene is like a macho fantasy one because there is no reason one would fear Tarzan. It is unlikely that they’d be afraid of a naked white man running around in their environment. Now notice the phrase, “unsling his bow” which is ironic because we know that this bow was stolen from the Africans. Also, why would this black warrior not have a bow and arrow himself? Even if Tarzan practiced with the bow and arrow he would not be as skilled as the natives. They not only engineered them but have a society and culture that would contribute to them mastering shooting a bow from an arrow through socialization and education. That apparently contributes to the whole racism which includes the insulting of people’s intelligence.
Scenes in Tarzan are remindful of southern lynching in the 19th and 20th century during which time the novel was published. “The blacks, their eyes protruding in horror, watched spellbound. Once beneath the trees, the body rose straight into the air, and as it disappeared into the foliage above, the terrified negroes, screaming with fright, broke into a mad race for the village gate. (248)” It is apparent that lynching was done in hopes of instilling fear of the latter description in maintaining white supremacy as exemplified in Tarzan even in the “African jungle.” By now we see numerous scenes of fearful Africans both in Tarzan and Captain Horn being repeated over and over again in hopes that this continuous repetition would make it true or real, for the obvious reasons that it is not true or actual.

Esmeralda in Tarzan of the Apes

Like the African Natives, Esmeralda is also depicted as fearful “like a frightened child(148).” Her character identity is posited as African American. We know this because she arrived from “America” as Jane’s maiden. Esmeralda wanted to leave the “African jungles.” She said, “You all don’t mean to tell ME that you’re going to stay right here in this here land of carnivable animals…Don’t you tell me THAT, honey.(280)” Not only is this voice clearly stereotypical, she is depicted as having absolutely no interest in the African continent much less in remaining there. Nor in her African roots because we already know that as an African American she would be of African descent.  The only way she would have no interest her African ancestral home, is if she had been brainwashed, denied or stripped of her history by the influence or behavior of oppressor/s during some type of servitude.

Esmeralda, like other “black” characters is there for entertainment—albeit a racist. It’s akin to the minstrel shows used to entertain the white masses. In this period these shows had to be racist to be deemed entertaining by white audiences.  I will go as far as saying that Esmeralda is “blackface”— a non-black character with theatrical makeup to represent a black person. Even though Esmeralda is not one of the African native, she is still portrayed as fearful as much as the African characters in the “jungle” where Tarzan also resides. Whether they are black Americans or Africans in the Congo, they are all depicted as the same: fearful. None of the black characters are portrayed in a suitable manner from the beginning.

Heart of Darkness

Conrad also depicted Africans in his novel in a stereotypical, superficial, and distasteful manner. Here is a descriptions of the natives, “Black shapes crouched, lay, sat between the trees, leaning against the trunks, clinging to the earth in all attitudes of pain, abandonment, and despair they were nothing earthly now….One of these creatures rose to his hands and knees and went off on all fours towards the river to drink. (Conrad 25)” The natives are portrayed as shapes and moving forms with no characteristics so as to distinguish one from the other.  They are described as animalistic, moving “on all fours,” and in a superstitious manner as in “nothing but black shadows of disease and starvation.(25)” Alluding to Captain Horn, they are Mok and Maka, very similar as if they are one body and not separate individuals.

Like Tarzan and Captain Horn, the Natives are described in sweeping generalizations and has literally one body. We know that the author did in fact go to this area of the African continent. However, he must have left with the same stereotypes he came with of Africans and did not discover a full truth exemplified in his racist descriptions of Africans as sub-human.

Similarly, the two previously mentioned novels, blacks aren’t given authentic voices. Marlowe chose to describe the voice of the Africans as a “growing murmur of voices” and a “violent babble of uncouth sounds(15).”

Solely based on authorship, one can tell that Borrough, Stockton, and Conrad do not know or have little to no familiarity with blacks making their stance superstitious. Examine the phrase, “Then Mbonga emerged, a look of mingled wrath and superstitious fear writ upon his hideous countenance.” European or white characters are not depicted as fearful, atleast not as much as melanated characters. Logically speaking it would more be the European that would be afraid not being familiar with the surroundings.

Apart from the authors being racist, one can argue that racism is superstition. The definition of superstition in the Webster’s dictionary is: 1. any belief, based on fear or ignorance, that is inconsistent with the known laws of science or with what is considered as true and rational. 2. any action or practice based on such a belief. Meanwhile dictionary.com defines superstition as “irrational belief usually founded on ignorance or fear and characterized by obsessive reverence…a notion, act or ritual that derives from such belief. 2. any irrational belief[racism], esp with regard to the unknown[blacks].” Evidently, it is ironic that the natives or blacks are repeatedly shown to be superstitious when it’s really Stockton reflected in Captain Horn and his crew, Borroughs, and Conrad that would likely be afraid and superstitious. They carry superstitious beliefs of blacks.

Colonialism in the texts

In both Tarzan and Captain Horn Europeans have been shipwrecked on another land in one way for another. In Tarzan and Heart of Darkness, however short, there have been colonialism.  When Lord Greystroke was sent to “[investigate] conditions in a British West Coast African Colony. The English men stated that the Africans were held in slavery. Even after their enlistment ended they were taken advantage of and kept in servitude for several more years. This is very similar to Heart of Darkness where the Africans are overworked as the earlier quote above describes their conditions and then left to die. In Tarzan there is also scenes that can arguably be symbolic of colonialism. When Tarzan steals the Native’s bows and arrows on numerous occasions, it is symbolic of Europeans exploitation of African resources. And when Tarzan was using the arrow against the Native it’s using the very resources they’ve gained from the oppressed against the oppressed. When “the devil of capriciousness entered [Tarzan’s] heart,” it can also be symbolic of the behavior of colonists because of the subjugation of people and echoes the title of Conrad’s novel—Heart of Darkness. Conrad and Borrough would say Europeans shouldn’t be in Africa looting and exploiting. All three authors would agree more or less that material things are the root of all evil.

Conclusion

As a black person reading Captain Horn, for example when I laugh, I always stop abruptly in my tracks to remember that I am laughing at the author’s ignorance. This novel could’ve been hilarious without racism and would make a great movie if my aforementioned discussion is considered. While reading Conrad’s description of blacks, I couldn’t help but think that he was mentally ill. If, Heart of Darkness’ goal was to show the evils of colonization then what better way to show this than through the eyes of oppressors? That Conrad had no empathy towards blacks, making his work less effective if it’s goal was to educate Europeans on the horrors of colonialism so that it may be eradicated. To actively fight colonialism and the oppression, blacks would have had to be an integral part of the solution. We know this because they are the ones oppressed and also because Europeans are on an African land. As for Tarzan, Borrough seems to admit something near closer to the truth with this line near the end of the novel, “But one might as well judge all blacks by the fellow who ran amuck last week, or decide that all whites are cowards because one has met a cowardly white.(302)” So when it’s said and done Borrough is admitting that in reality it is actually whites that are the cowards and that cowardice is only projected unto black characters in Tarzan and Captain Horn.

Advertisements

We Wear the Mask

Published November 20, 2016 by lorijss

We Wear the Mask

This classic poem by Paul Lawrence Dunbar, We Wear the Mask, in 1896 shows the experiences of the black male and female in a racist and segregationist society. This poem has traditionally been placed in the literary historic era: realism – which showcased reality in descriptive details. On a specific note, racial realism is where the poem belongs as it showcased exactly what blacks were feeling under their collective disguise towards their oppression. Peter Revell argues that the poem serves as an apology to what Dunbar knew would be a condemnation “Of the grin of minstrelsy and the lie of the plantation tradition that Dunbar felt himself bound to adopt ‘myriad subtleties.’” James Emanuel states that the beginning of the poem, “We wear the masks, that grinds and lies/ it hides our cheeks and our eyes, “ Dunbar wants to point out that the mask itself is smiling but underneath the black man isn’t. He also states that “myriad subtleties” of blacks is an enlargement of the mask to include, “distortion of genuine features.” Michael J. Cummings asserts that blacks in the 19th century when Dunbar was writing this poem, hid the pain and anger that they had towards whites and also from each other. If blacks were to reveal their true feelings about whites’ lack of common sense to know they were ill-treating them, they would risk even more maltreatment on top of what they already had to deal with.

Sometimes, Cummings asserts, blacks would hold back their feelings of oppression as defeat was difficult to articulate and, “could impose deep anxiety amongst loved ones.” So many blacks walked around looking content but inside they were in distress.
I am arguing that “We Wear the Mask” was a poem that was a predetermined reaction to whites’ enjoyment of works that adhered to amassing stereotypes. Dunbar knew what he was doing and was acknowledging he was not alone in what he was feeling as this was an experience that African Americans encountered. After a while Dunbar got tired of living down to the stereotypes that whites imposed on him both as an involvement in minstrelsy and in dialect poetry. He knew that more black stereotypes were going to be imposed on blacks crippling them past, present and future and in order to survive under the constant strains of racism he would have to not forget who he was in the face of what whites wanted him to be. We wear the mask is admitting to oneself the coping-mechanism blacks utilize in the face of menial work, Klu Klux Klan, and the Plessy vs. Ferguson, “separate but equal” nonsense.
Dunbar was already accustomed to whites’ always telling blacks who they were and that in return would become the “mask” that blacks wear. In other words whatever whites said blacks were was in itself the mask that they’d wear to get by. We Wear the Mask was a poem in Dunbar’s collection Major and Minor that he wrote before Howell’s review of the collection which focused on only the dialect ones. I feel it necessary to examine how We Wear the Mask was already a reaction to the impending racist and racially insensitive critique of Dunbar’s poetry collection by William Howell. Concerning Dunbar’s material Howell states, “…and in his treatment of it he has been able to bring us nearer to the heart of primitive human nature in his race than anyone else has yet done.” The latter is an example of what Dunbar and other African Americans were accustomed to, whites telling blacks who they were or who they ought to be. This accustoming was what made the poem a preexisting reaction. Howell goes on to say, “Here in the artistic effect, at least, is white thinking and white feeling in a black man.” This later statement is racist because it’s implying that when a black man thinks and feels, he is white. One can assume that Dunbar’s poem was overlooked or quite frankly pushed aside. And ironically, this poem was a pre-existing reaction to ideologies such as Howell’s critique which in itself only proves what Dunbar already saw coming.
We Wear the mask was so realistic that by it being a preexisting reaction, showcased that the general attitude of white audiences to blacks no matter where the show was, was essentially the same. Whites saw black minstrel as really what blacks experienced when in fact it was just the opposite. The ways in which the poem was a preexisting reaction to impending white racism is as follows: “this debt we pay human guile” could be interpreted in different ways. It could be saying that we as blacks put up with whites ignorance to make a living and make sure there is food on the table for our families. “We” get involved with minstrelsy at the expense of our humanity and authentic African American identity. Dunbar wrote dialect poetry because that was what white readers expected “Black” poetry to consist of. But these poetry was exaggeration and sarcasm, poking fun at many whites’ predominantly false and racially stereotypical views of blacks. I am even going to go as far as stating that this was passive resistance. “With torn and bleeding hearts we smile,” is saying that we as blacks use a coping mechanism to deal with the racial discrimination that we face on a daily basis by smiling and looking like we are content but inside we are pretty much dying. That line could be talking about the very dialect poetry included in the collection with a portrayal of blacks as golly, jolly and content with plantation slavery life.
Dunbar’s reply to Howell’s review is not only an example of the mask that he is talking about in the poem but a portrayal of the extent of the poem’s realism. In the reply he says, “I feel much as a poor insignificant, hopeless boy would feel to have himself knighted…my whole life has been simple, obscure and uneventful.” In this reaction one can see that this exemplifies the, “Nay let them only see us, while we wear the mask,” line of the poem. Scholar, Gene Jarrett asserts that Dunbar had mixed feelings about Howell’s review, and that sixteen days after it appeared Dunbar sent Howell a letter stating that he read the article and felt what it had done. This is an example of Dunbar wearing the very “Mask’ that he confesses he does in his poem, as with many other African Americans in the 19th century. An example of Dunbar wearing the mask only adds to the realistic vigor of the poem. Jarret adds that a year later after thanking Howells, Dunbar in what appears to be a regret of his positive and humble reaction towards Howell’s review said that there was a, “ ‘irrevocable harm in the dictum that Howell laid down regarding [my] dialect verse. (500)’ ” I want to add that this regret was rooted in Dunbar’s forethought that Howell would praise the dialect poetry as whites saw Dunbar as a “racial novelty fit to entertain the white masses not to challenge them” (Black and White), or to break down the white denominated literary marketplace. Jarrett states that scholars have argued that Dunbar’s dialect poems were actually a protest against “minstrel realism” although on the surface it seemed to be perpetrating it. One can see the resistance and a more evident protest in “We Wear the Mask.”
Black minstrelsy was not a realistic portrayal of African Americans. However, the poem “We Wear the Mask” was, as it was uprooted from Black minstrelsy in order to showcase the pained realities of African American life— what was really happening under the mask. The poem also adds a racial lens to realism. The power of the social construct of race is of vital importance in the understanding and appreciation of the poem. It also becomes more meaningful when it is read from the historically racial backdrop from whence it sprung. That way readers can relate or empathize.

Works Cited

“Black and White: Paul Laurence Dunbar and Race in Post-Civil War Literature.” Publishers’
Bindings Online: Paul Laurence Dunbar. N.p., n.d. Web. 02 Dec. 2015.

Dunbar, Lawrence. “We Wear the Mask.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature. Ed.
Nina Baym and Robert S. Levine. 8th ed. New York: W.W. Norton, 2013. 2127-35. Print.

“Dunbar’s Reply to Howell’s Review.” Academic Divisions. Sinclair Community College, n.d.
Web. 02 Dec. 2015.

Jarrett, Gene. “Entirely Black Verse From Him Would Succeed.” Nineteenth –
Century Literature 59.4 (2005): 494-525. ProQuest. Web. 2 Dec. 2015

William, Howell. “Rev. Of Majors and Minors by Lawrence Dunbar. Harper’s Weekly. 27 June
1896: 630-631. Print.

[Insert source here]

Black and White in Possession

Published July 24, 2016 by lorijss

Black and white in Possession

The use of “white” and “black” in Possession by A.S Byatt is worth exploring. White is used 263 times in the text. “White” was used so many times that it has caught my attention and is impossible to overlook but perhaps ignored by many scholars. As a result, I will explore the different uses of the word white. Firstly, in Possession, the word white is associated with beauty while black is associated with “evilness.” When describing Maud, the protagonist, Byatt writes, “the whiteness of her, which was part of her extreme magnetism. (301)” While evident in the novel, it is mostly evident in the tale, “The Glass Coffin.” Perhaps Byatt is trying to show how the terms blackness and whiteness are used in language. However, an African-American reader reading “black” as evil and “white” as beautiful, may see it as an insult or even racist. Perhaps Byatt is showing the damaging effects of the terms in fairytales. The representation of dark of black as immoral is consistent in “The Glass Coffin” and makes one wonder if white represent the opposite in the rest of the book.
“The Glass Coffin” tale seems to highlight the repetitiveness of “white” in the novel. When the tailor first enters the “strange household,” in the fire corner stood a “black-and-white goat. (66)” Because of how hardworking the tailor is, the little man gave him the choice of three gifts. A soft leather purse, the second “a cooking pot, black outside, polished and gleaming inside. (67)” Lastly, “a glass key glittering with all the colors of the rainbow.(67)” When the tailor left the strange household, he stumbled upon a box and saw, “a face, the most beautiful face he could’ve dreamed of or imagined…a still white face.(71)” It is clear, the purported association of whiteness with beauty. The princess then goes on to describe how her brother let a stranger in their home. And how he took pleasure in his company and she felt sorrow clearly for feeling left out. She said the stranger strode into the chamber where she’d awaken with his, “black curly hair and dangerous smiley face. (72)” Persons of African descent have black curly hair so that can be interpreted as such.
“White” in the novel becomes the backdrop by which a stark contrast to “black” in the tale can be made. When the princess said her brother had gone hunting with the stranger—upon return, she states, “And out of the dark woods came the black man, leading his horse on one arm, and on the other a tall grey hound with the saddest face I have ever seen on any creature. This accentuates the notion that blackness leads to sorrow. She continues, “he told me my brother had suddenly gone away, and would return no more for a great and uncertain length of time and had left me, and the castle, in charge of him, the dark magician.(73)” By stating dark magician she is implying that his darkness is up to no good.
As with any fairytale, there is a winning victory of a knight in shining armor rescuing a white princess. “The Glass Coffin” is no different as this is how the “black man” died in the tale: “The black artist appeared on the threshold, wrapped in a swirling black cloak, smiling most ferociously…when he came up, put out a hand to touch the lady, whereupon our hero with all his might at his heart, and the glass splinter entered deeply and he fell to the ground.(73)” The author makes the black artiste dress black in an effort to make him more evil, bad, or immoral.
The tailor won the heart of the white princess by not only freeing her from the box with his glass key but by defeating the “black artist.” The tale concludes, “Then the lady told her brother that the little tailor had rescued her from her sleep and had killed the black artist and had won her hand in marriage.(75)” Symbolically, Maud is the white princess and the tailor is the ideal version of Roland, the male protagonist, who could win Maud’s heart.
Much later on in the novel, we find Byatt writing, “He waited. Two people, a black man and a white woman exhausted their cards. (370)” I believe that this line has significance. Why not just say, two people? A man and a woman? Why say a black man and a white woman? Perhaps Byatt is showcasing diversity and how black and white as words defined in the English language, are just that—language and are completely separated from the psyche of persons or should be separated from the psyche of individuals. We know that this is not the case in “The Glass Coffin” but we can say “black on the outside, polished and gleaming on the inside” means beauty is in the eye of the beholder or beauty is only skin-deep. Also, “the glass key glittering with all the colors of the rainbow” could symbolize diversity.

 

notes:

A search of “white” in Possession on kindle produces 263 results.
Did not find any articles on subject matters –the use of “black” or repetitive use of white in Possession

An African American Jamaican Explication of London by William Blake

Published November 28, 2015 by lorijss

An African Jamaican Explication of London by William Blake

Cities are notorious for insinuating dark and dreary emotions from internal corruption and oppression. London by William Blake paints a dark portrait of London as a city in desolation. Even though he may be writing about the environment at present, the depressing imagery of the poem can be applied to not only London but just about any corrupt city in the world. Not only is this poem a depiction of his time in London but a premonition of what’s to come. Repetition and juxtaposition are the most powerful devices that Blake uses as through this he is able to paint that haunting and sorrowful picture of gloom in every stanza. This in turn adds to the poem’s universality towards human suffering.
Repetition is at its strongest when he is repeating not necessarily words but dark emotions:
In every cry of every man
In every Infant’s cry of fear
In every voice, in every ban
The mind-forg’d manacles I hear: (5-8)
Here Blake is emphasizing the intricate reasons for every expression of grief. I think the repetition of ending sounds in words at the end of each line such as “Man” and” ban,” “fear” and “hear” represents the crying calls to be heard or for social consciousness.. “The mind-forged manacles I hear,” is him simply stressing the oppression that stems from political, economic and religious corruption. This line we see its universal application, it’s as if Blake is urging one to break free from the shackles of slavery, obviously in this case it would mean mental slavery. The speaker hearing these “mind-forged manacles” ears are tuned to the clanking of the chains tied to each person’s foot as they walk under the captivity that elicit their cries.
The description of these appalling conditions allows flexibility in interpretation. When he states “how the Chimney sweeper’s cry,” one can even imply that this sound of a cry is enough to seep into one’s soul; so this is more than hearing. “Every blackening church appalls” is stating that the conditions that the people are under while cleaning chimneys tells us that the church is allowing people to work under these appalling conditions by not being proactive about it at the time Blake is writing the poem. Here he is highlighting religious corruption or hypocrisy. There is a premonition of death because the chimney smoke can get into your lungs, thereby shortening your lifespan through respiratory diseases. This could mean that the smoke from the chimney is “blackening” the skins of the fair-skinned child workers. We see the juxtaposition here, “blackening” could symbolize the moral decay of the church. It could also mean that the skin of fair-skinned workers are “blackening;” they are now toiling like the enslaved Africans, including children, in the British colonies. Except now the conditions are a result of the Industrial Revolution. I think the word “blackening” in this poem leaves room for that sort of racial interpretation.
The last stanza serves as a reminder as to what it’s like walking the streets of a gloomy London all day. Then what that boils down to as the day nears its end. The dark tone seems to have been building up from bad to worse. When a reader subconsciously ties blackening from previous stanza with “midnight” from last stanza, there is another juxtaposition. Day fades into midnight as if to say day is “blackening.” What makes this very effective is what he describes after the scene is set –prostitution. This “blasts the new-born Infant’s tear,” could mean new born babies are born blind because of a parent’s venereal disease (Baym et al). It may mean that the prostitution doesn’t make the person fit to be a parent and so when the child is growing up he or she shed “tears” as a retaliation to their parent’s unfit parenting. Some might not know who the father of the child is given that history of prostitution. The missing parent causes an infant to cry as they suffer more without two parents. The line “Plagues the Marriage hearse” tells the apparent undermining of the sanctity of marriage. Married people engaging in prostitution as a way to make ends meet shows the deep rooted social issues Blake is letting his readers become aware of.
The strength of this poem lies it’s effective use of repetition of the word cry, and allowing the word “blackening” to be interpreted through different lenses. Its application goes far beyond just London, it is universal and represents that common human experience of suffering. Perhaps the repetition is Blake’s way of telling readers that the conditions described, repeats itself in the present day by day but that this will become the very history that will repeat itself in years to come. The speaker’s repetition of dreary emotions is a catalyst for change. Granted the cries doesn’t fall on deaf “unempathetic” ears, social awareness leads to social change. This may be what the speaker was trying to imply by ending the poem on such a gloomy note that these conditions, if we don’t nip it in the bud, will become a catastrophe.
Works Cited
Blake, William. “London.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 9th ed. Vol. D. New York: W.W. Norton, 2013. 132-33. Print.

Baym, Nina, and Robert S. Levine. “London.” The Norton Anthology of American Literature. 9th ed. Vol. D. New York: W.W. Norton, 2013. 132-33. Print.

 

Zimmerman stands trial

Published April 14, 2012 by lorijss

Zimmerman finally got arrested and charged with second degree murder in the death of the unarmed 17 year old teenager, Trayvon Martin. He could face 25 years to life, I am hoping he serves life but what matters the most is that there is finally justice for Trayvon’s family. It is still shocking that it took 45 days for Zimmerman to finally get arrested, whereas if he were a black male I honestly believe that he would have been arrested right on the spot and given a background check and an investigation immediately launched. Moral of the story, you can’t judge a book by it’s cover, and this tragic incident as shown us an example of how dangerous it can be to judge someone especially if the person has a gun that that they intend on using. Not only that, defying authority and in this case, his complete disregard for authority eventually led to a tragic loss of life. I believe that Zimmerman behaved in a reckless and idiotic manner and could’ve handled the situation in an intelligent, calm and considerate manner. He was simply acting on his own imagination, stereotype and fear. Trayvon’s mom is strong to state that it may have been an accident, that if he had known that Trayvon was a normal 17 year old with Skittles and Ice Tea then he would not have pulled the trigger. Trayvon, his mom, dad and whole family is a symbol of hope and justice for us as human beings. I predicted that he was indeed going to get arrested but I didn’t know his charges would have been second degree murder, I thought it would have been negligent homicide but the more I think about it the more second degree murder makes sense, I mean he did disregard authority and chased after the boy.  He is safer in custody and in a jail cell than out on the streets where he could be assaulted or even worse, killed. I pray for Trayvon’s family, may peace be with them in their strong hearts and soul forevermore, for this is only the beginning.

ABC NEWS- Zimmerman charged with 2nd Degree Murder in Trayvon Martin’s Death

What do you know about Black history month?

Published February 9, 2012 by lorijss

This video show the racism and stereotypical behavior towards or about people of African descent at BYU. I am sure all the white respondents in this video are nice, friendly, fun, welcoming individuals, who mean no harm or don’t intend to insult black Americans. Also they obviously don’t consider themselves “racists” or “color-blind racists.” In response to some of the white girls’ thoughts: “Classy”obviously should not or does NOT equal white, and white does NOT or should not equal “classy.” Classy is also very subjective in other words self-defined, but may seem to be more defined by people who are members of the white American culture and ideology which is the most dominant & prevalent culture and ideology in the US. These statements about being “classy” can be interpreted as “racist” or color-blind “racist.” What does it mean “to act” like a “black guy” or what does it mean “to act” like a “white guy?” That question is open to many debates and discussions that I won’t lend a hand to in this post. For the sake of this post, the white girls in the video are basically trying to say that “acting white” is “better”without actually being conscious that that can be interpreted as “racist.”

In this video, all the white respondents can be viewed as racist in it’s own right because they are first of all White Americans. White Americans since the beginning of the United States have always enjoyed unearned privileges at the expense of non-whites, specifically people of African descent. In this video the whites can be interpreted as standing at the pedestal looking down on Black Americans or anyone of African descent without intending to or meaning to, this is on the basis of their own ignorance.  So African immigrants which includes immigrants from Kenya, Nigeria, Ghana, Botswana or Caribbean immigrants which includes, Jamaica at BYU are put into this box of stereotypes that white Americans have. This is due to their ignorance which is a direct result of their upbringing, or their inexperience with having  interactions with people that are directly from African countries and immigrated or black Americans that are born and raised in the US . Whatever the case may be either way the white respondents in this video have had both little social interaction with black Americans or meaningless social interactions with black Americans.  In addition to that these whites don’t understand the concept of white privilege and in order to understand that they have to step outside the box that they’re in & accept their white privileges. In order to accept that  they have white privileges, however major and minor it is, is by going out of their “way” to be in an environment where they’re interacting with blacks or non-whites on a day to day basis, even leaving the US will do. After doing that go back to interacting with whites and they will see it loud and clear if they open their minds. At least that’s what I think. Therefore, as a result of this lacking in experience that I just discussed, these whites are unable to form sensible responses when interviewed. Whether or not they were being interviewed by that dude their views of black Americans would still be ignorant and stereotypical, therefore it can be interpreted as “racist.” On top of that white Americans are the majority at BYU and most of the positions of power and affluence are filled with people that are White Americans. Honestly my personal experience at BYU as a black Caribbean/Jamaican has showed me that BYU is not only the whitest and most white-washed institution in the US but as a result of that both the most “racist” and “color-blind” racist institution. Still due to the fact that most whites at BYU are Mormons who have served a mission, which is basically spending 2 years in another country for the purpose of spreading Mormonism. The melting of stereotypical views is hopeful especially for those who have served missions in African countries, the Caribbean, Central America, and South America.

What are your thoughts on this video?

Racist people are plainly put: dumb

Published February 6, 2012 by lorijss

New study shows that: Racist people are plainly put: dumb

Racist people were just, there is no other word: dumb. I have gotten into countless debates with racist whites online and it seems to be impossible to sway or reason with them, they usually remain steadfast in their backward mentality concerning race. I put racist whites in two categories:1) whites who’ve, according to them, personally felt like they have been harassed, ridiculed, humiliated, put down, beaten up by black/s. 2) whites who have done something racist towards blacks/a black person and the guilt is eating them alive. These whites feel so guilty about past injustices that they try to rid this strain on their brains by coming up with an excuse to absolve themselves from any personal responsibility. “Closed attitudes come from closed minds.” Both categories listed leads to their delusions that in itself is a disease of the mind. Of course racism is not just limited to whites but I do believe that because of the after effects of European colonization in the Americas which in turn led to present day white, European American privilege. Whites are more likely to appear more racist than any other social or racial group.

So word to the wise don’t waste time having discussions with racists online, these people are safely hidden behind their computer screens and can type anything they want to type in the world. On top of having a disease of their mind they are cowards who are doing nothing to make the world a better place. Lets come together to make the world a better place and walk away from all manner of hatred and instill love in our hearts.