In Alice Walker’s book, In Search Of Our Mother’s Gardens, she addresses many issues facing blacks in today’s society. The two essays examined here, “The Black Writer and the Southern Experience” and “The Unglamorous But Worthwhile Duties Of the Black Revolutionary Artist Or Of the Black Writer Who Simply Works and Writes,” concern themselves with the truth and beauty of being a black Southern writer and the role of the revolutionary black artist, respectively.
The first essay, “The Black Writer and the Southern Experience,” is concerned with the truth of the South, primarily in the era beginning with the Jim Crow laws and coming up to the present. Walker speaks of some of the incidents that happened in the South and that even though these are shameful events, there is a beauty to be found in them. In one anecdote, she recalls a time in which her mother was to redeem a voucher for flour from the Red Cross. When the Red Cross woman looked at her in the clothes sent to her by an aunt from the North, all she could remark on was the gall of those “niggers” who come to beg, wearing nicer clothes than her. While this can be seen as an ugly, embarrassing scene, Walker sees the beauty in the fact that this scene did not keep her from feeding her family. Walker states, ” I am nostalgic for the solidarity and sharing a modest existence can sometimes bring” (17). By this statement she speaks of the way in which the community of neighbors joined together to take care of each other. This is one of the truths of the South.
Walker also speaks of another truth. This truth is one of no universals, as far as people go. Some of the same people that preach…
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….should be hated…However, there are some men who should be loved” (137).
I am in agreement with Walker in this essay also. The way in which Walker relates her ideas is one of directness. Her view of the world as a whole does not seem to concentrate on the victim mentality or of the evil of white as seems the prevailing opinion of some black writers of the day. There exists a positivism in her writing that is to be applauded. Walker states, “It is the duty of the artist to present the man as he is” (137) and it is this commitment to honesty that makes her a great writer.
Based on the reading of the essays, I would characterize her as a conservative womanist. Her views and the ways in which she wishes to instigate change are not too radical as to be mistaken as anti-society or as anti-white. Walker realizes, as everyone should, change takes time.
Essay on the Use of Third Person and Innocence of Language in Ake
Use of Third Person and Innocence of Language in Aké
The Nigerian novelist Wole Soyinka’s memoir, Aké, is a story told through the eyes of a child. Many incidents and the dialogues within these incidents are written in a tone which is suggestive of the innocence and actions which would only be performed by someone in a child-like state of mind. Soyinka’s masterful use of this tone, and the primary use of first person in story telling combine to form a realistic childhood picture.
In the third chapter we find young Wole describing a sort of parade which is passing before the walls of his home compound. This point in time seems to be when Wole first discovers the world beyond his front door. This realization can be likened to the destruction of the geocentric theory in which man comes to the realization that he is not the center of the universe. We see this realization in this quote from page 37: “It became clear then that we in the parsonage were living in a separate town by ourselves, and that Aké was the rest of what I could see.”
Another example of childlike thinking can be found in the description of a tuba. In the parade there is a man walking with a tuba. Wole makes the association of the bell of the tuba and the bell part of a gramophone. Young Wole says, “Tinu and I had long rejected the story that the music which came from the gramophone was made by a special singing dog locked in the machine. We never saw it fed, so it would have long starved to death. I had not yet found the means of opening up the machine, so the mystery remained” (41). Here we find child-like reasoning at its finest.
At the end of Wole’s story of his exploration of the world outside of his familial com…
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…wo places,” (187-188) Wole, along with his comrades, expresses this belief in bad magic. Another example of child-like rationality can be seen in the quick belief in a conspiracy theory seen in this line from page 188: “…they had come to ‘spoil the ground’ for others!” Child-like actions are found in the notions of justice, also found on page 188, when the children become judge, jury, and executioner of their peers with the line “Someone proposed that we search their luggage…and was vociferously cheered.”
The writing of a memoir through the eyes of a child can produce a highly entertaining work, as proved by Wole Soyinka. Through the use of third person and the masterful use of the innocence and language of childhood, Soyinka has written a memoir that can make us remember what is was like to see the world through the eyes of a child.