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Coming of Age in Ferris Beach

Coming of Age in Ferris Beach

Jill McCorkle’s Ferris Beach is set in the 1970’s, which is a transitional period in American history. The book is a buildings roman of Katie Burn’s coming of age. Her maturing is complicated by the transition that is occurring in the time period. At the time, the Civil Rights movement had just ended, and there is a movement towards a more modern society, which included the integration of races and equality among men and women. In the book, the movement is characterized as a transition from the ‘Old South’ to the ‘New South.’ Different characters symbolize each time period. For example, Theresa Poole represents the Old South, whereas, Mo Rhodes is symbolic of the New South. As Katie grows up in this atmosphere, she must understand herself, and her sexuality. The mentalities of the Old and New South affect Katie’s development. Each character in the book influences her values and beliefs. Katie must understand people like Mo Rhodes and Theresa Poole in order to establish her position in the shifting order. Throughout the book she is exposed to different extremes of Southern mentality, and she falls victim to others’ views. Finally, Katie realizes that her notions about Angela and Mo Rhodes are wrong, and that she believes in ideas that fall in between the two extremes that she has experienced.

In the beginning of the book, we are introduced to Mrs. Poole, who is a traditional southern lady. She is ridiculed throughout the book because of her conventional beliefs. Her ‘Old South’ mentality is revealed at the beginning of the book when Mrs. Poole says, “the split levels are coming! The split levels are coming!”(pg. 1) She believes that the split levels represent a lower class and will degrade their long time established neighborhood. Theresa leads the Children of the Confederacy club and insists that Katie and Misty must be members of this historical organization. Katie and Misty’s participation almost mocks Mrs. Poole’s “southern ways.” The organization epitomizes a traditional mentality. It is evident that Mrs. Poole does not want to partake in the transition into the New South.

On the other hand, Angela and Mo Rhodes are of an extremely opposite nature. Angela is a beautiful young woman, who Katie envies and admires. Angela is a free spirited girl who has no commitment to anything.

From Hate to Love in James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time

From Hate to Love in James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time

James Baldwin was a man of many insights. He believed in various ideas with regards to ?the problem of the color line? (103). Baldwin, like many other thinkers of his time knew that a change was needed in this country, specifically Baldwin believed a shift from hatred to love was needed. The main change Baldwin discusses in his biographical novel, The Fire Next Time, religion and how it teaches hate for others and love for those who believe. The importance Baldwin believes is the change from those beliefs taught by religion to a new acceptance of both black and white races.

Baldwin?s idea of change stemmed from his intense religious beliefs. This particular change was a personal change for Baldwin himself. Baldwin was confused and mesmerized by the teachings of religion. He so enjoyed and believed in the ?blind-faith? that he took up preaching. He wrote intense sermons and became enthralled in his church and beliefs. While preaching he began to question and examine the life in which he lived. He questioned himself and the ideas and beliefs he conveyed to his congregation and the validity of the other preachers. He came to realize that even the church was corrupt. He became vary Socratic in his thinking; Baldwin began to realize that the truths that he thought to be true were not exactly what he thought they were. He realized that the Bible is cluttered with discrepancies. Baldwin came to realize that the ?good book? was discriminatory against whites, yet told its followers to love everyone; conversely when read in a white context was discriminatory against blacks, who were thought to be the sons of Ham. He discovered this contradicti…

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…d with this notion solely because, The Nation of Islam had intentions of seeking revenge on the whites, for years and years of oppression and racism. This was yet another hate filled notion Baldwin could not agree with.

James Baldwin?s change from hatred to love was an idea few could consciously grasp in effort to remove ?the problem of the color line? (103). Baldwin believed that love was the answer and religion did not help to make a difference. Christianity taught love, but not the love that was needed to destroy the race barrier; it taught a racist love. Baldwin?s complex views can be summed up rather simply in a quote from the text. ?I love a few people and they love me and some of them are white, and isn?t love more important than color?? (71).

Works Cited:

Baldwin, James. The Fire Next Time. New York, NY: Vintage Books Inc., 1962.

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