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Racism and Prejudice – Fear and White Flight

Fear and White Flight

No one in my family participated in the Civil Rights movement. Nor were any of them members of Ku Klux Klan. As a white American descended from European immi-grants long since gone, my own racial history is largely absent from the American conscience. Y et this history, found in the movements of whites across cities and across time informs us of the movement of ethnicity in America as much as any other.

I am not far removed in my origins in Europe. My father’s mother, Marie Devlin, grew up in Kensington, an Irish neighborhood inside the city of Philadelphia. There she married Anthony McIlvaine, himself descended from Irish immigrants who moved to Northe rn Philadelphia, and there they had their son, Robert who later became my father.

Before my father was ten, he had already moved three times. First, his family left Kensington for Germantown — after World War II, word had spread through the working-class Irish neighborhood that the blacks were coming, and once the blacks moved in, it was said that your home would be worth nothing. Real estate agents, the “blockbusters,” swept through the ethnic neighborhood, scattering Irish family up north through the city.

From there, they rapidly progressed up Germantown Ave. in Philadelphia. First, they settled in the town of Mr. Airy, which was predominantly white, though not purely Irish. The ethnic background of the whites dissolved in their flight from the blacks. Sc otch-Irish, Irish, Polish, English became more arbitrary labels rather than identities. But soon, they would leave Mt. Airy and eventually Germantown itself after rumors spread that blacks were coming there too. By half way through the fifties, my father, his older brother and his you…

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… family are my history, my part of the story of race in America. This part, seen through the motion of my family is significant even if it is hidden — so many of the structures that ensure white power in society are. The neighborhood in which I was raised, only a few blocks from “White City.” where my grandparents bought a home, is a peaceful neighborhood. However, it is one built on the foundation of fear and a product of white flight. The events by which they came there have meaning and consequence beyond the word “race.” My grandparents left the city because they were wealthier, because they wanted better schools, because they needed a backyard. Yet all these concerns work to ever with race; little, if anything, in America does not. The story of race in America is the ground on which I stand. It is hard not to see this history, even if it is easy to ignore it.

Themes in Hamlet

Themes in Hamlet

Within the Shakespearean tragic drama Hamlet there are a number of themes. Literary critics find it difficult to agree on the ranking of the themes. This essay will present the themes as they are illustrated in the play – and let the reader prioritize them.

Michael Neill in “None Can Escape Death, the ‘Undiscovered Country’” interprets the main theme of the play as a “prolonged meditation on death”:

How we respond to the ending of Hamlet – both as revenge drama and as psychological study – depends in part on how we respond to [the most important underlying theme] of the play – that is, to Hamlet as a prolonged meditation on death. The play is virtually framed by two encounters with the dead: at one end is the Ghost, at the other a pile of freshly excavated skulls. The skulls (all but one) are nameless and silent; the Ghost has an identity (though a questionable one) and a voice; yet they are more alike than at first seem. For this ghost, though invulnerable “as the air,” is described as a “dead corse,” a “ghost . . . come from the grave,” its appearance suggesting a grotesque disinterment of the buried king. The skulls for their part may be silent, but Hamlet plays upon each to draw out its own “excellent voice” just as he engineered that “miraculous organ” of the Ghost’s utterance, the “Mousetrap.” (112-13)

The interpretation of the main theme of the play as revenge is popular among literary critics: Phyllis Abrahms and Alan Brody in “Hamlet and the Elizabethan Revenge Tragedy Formula” decide on revenge as the dominant theme:

There are ten deaths in Hamlet, if we include the death of Hamlet’s father and the “make-believe” death of the Player-King. The cause of …

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…eath, the ‘Undiscovered Country’.” Readings on Hamlet. Ed. Don Nardo. San Diego, CA: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Rpt. from “Hamlet: A Modern Perspective.” The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Ed. Barbara A. Mowat and Paul Werstine. N. P.: Folger Shakespeare Lib., 1992.

Pitt, Angela. “Women in Shakespeare’s Tragedies.” Readings on The Tragedies. Ed. Clarice Swisher. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1996. Excerpted from Shakespeare’s Women. N.p.: n.p., 1981.

Shakespeare, William. The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Massachusetts Institute of Technology. 1995.

West, Rebecca. “A Court and World Infected by the Disease of Corruption.” Readings on Hamlet. Ed. Don Nardo. San Diego: Greenhaven Press, 1999. Rpt. from The Court and the Castle. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1957.

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