Of the Passing of the First-Born
The scholar who wrote a critical article and I am choosing as a reference is Geriguis, Lina L. She is a lecturer at Chapman University, Department of English. The article is about Chapter 11 “Of the Passing of the First-Born” of W. E. B. Du Bois’s book The Souls of Black Folk (1903). It is one of the most sensitive chapters in the book, as it talks about a connection of W.E.B Du Bois’s extreme family experience to American life of black society. He uses symbolism a lot to create connections between past and his present. The chapter is a short timeline from the moment when Du Bois was informed that his son was born, to the passing of the child. Meanwhile, he expresses his emotions regarding racism, color line in America, and his hope that later generations would overcome racial inequalities.
This is very personal chapter talking about his sadness as a man, father and African American in the United States of America. In his book The Souls of Black Folk, he talks about how hard is the life of black people in the US, and in this chapter Of the Passing of the First-Born, he talks about how losing his child made it even worse for him.
The chapter starts in his office where he received a yellow paper saying “Unto You a child is born” (Du Bois 169). His thoughts about baby’s look and a new job in his life as a father did not last long because he ran to his wife as soon as possible to see “this tiny formless thing … new-born … from an unknown world.” (Du Bois 170). As the baby grew up, it started Du Bois’s confusion. The child started developing tinted hair with gold and blue eyes. He used this fact as a symbolism to bring up the history of African American life. When he said “tinted hair with gold” he referred to slavery and how much it affected his life. In this case, “golden hair” comes back from slavery when white people used to sexually abuse slaves in plantations. This caused so many African Americans to be born with white characteristics. This made his thoughts about being father and husband switch into reasons “why had not the brown of his eyes crushed out and kill the blue?” (Du Bois 170). Unfortunately, the baby did not have a chance to live long, only 18 months. One day he got sick and after ten days of taking care of him and struggling with finding a doctor, he passed away. The biggest reason for the child’s passing was that white doctor would not come, since the child was “Black”, and a black doctor was almost impossible to find at the time. In addition, Du Bois wife was being extra protective and would not trust her child to anyone. This whole situation changed Du Bois life. Even though he lost his baby he kept thinking optimistic that baby did not die, he escaped as a free man. He was really upset about all these, but he realized that the only good outcome from this was that the veil never ruined the life of his child. He died without understanding this world, he died freely.
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