Synthesis Essay-impacts Of Community On Identity - AP Literature - Essay

1666 words - 7 pages

VanDen Heuvel 1
Natalie VanDen Heuvel
Mr. Marquardt
AP Literature
16 October 2018
Synthesis Essay
“The Mississippi or Alabama sheriff, who really does believe, when he’s facing a Negro
boy or girl, that this woman, this man, this child must be insane to attack the system to which he
owes his entire identity” (James Baldwin 1965). Identity is something that most people own; it is
what makes them who they are, and one usually has the power to dictate their identity so that it
represents who they are accurately. However, not everyone gets this opportunity. Oppression
causes difficulty for some to create an identity that is truly themselves, not their circumstances.
In Richard Wright’s novel, ​Native Son,​ a young African American man named Bigger Thomas
struggles to survive in the slums of Chicago. His violent tendencies lead to two murders which
lcauses Bigger to struggle to discover his true identity. During James Baldwin’s 1965 debate
with William F. Buckley, Baldwin argues about the oppression that the African American
community has dealt with in America. “Harlem Shadows”, a poem by Claude McKay, African
American women turn to prostitution because they have nothing else. Identity is directly
impacted by the community around them, which, for the oppressed, are very brutal, causing them
to not know what defines them as a person.
The oppressed often have to turn to violent ways to give themselves an identity and be
seen in society. In Richard Wright’s novel ​Native Son​, Bigger commits two murders; one an
accident, one deliberate. Bigger realizes that his girlfriend Bessie might tell the police about his
VanDen Heuvel 2
murder of Mary, a rich white young woman, and he realizes that “He couldn’t take her and he
couldn’t leave her’ so he would have to kill her” (236 Wright).. If Bigger had not been
mistreated based on his race his entire life he most likely wouldn’t have murdered her. However,
the violent mistreatment that he endured gave him violent tendencies .The identity of a violent
killer is created for himself, by himself. This is his defining trait, even though there is much more
to him as a person, that is all that people will see. Contrastly, in James Balwdin’s debate, he
takes on violence from a different angle. Baldwin says “When I was growing up, I was taught in
American history books, that Africa had no history, and neither did I. That I was a savage about
whom the less said, the better, who had been saved by Europe and brought to America” (4
Baldwin). Baldwin explains how the African American community was seen as a violent people
because their true history was wiped away when they came to America. A new history was
created for them which portrayed them in them most negative way. Many times the violent
identity is inflicted upon the minority without consent, causing them to be misjudged and
mistreated. This mistreatment has caused oppression which doesn’t allow for an identity of their
own. Claude McKay illustrates a very appall...

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