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Literature Essay Example

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Langston Hughes’ “The Negro Speaks of Rivers” arguably aims to create a sense of historical consciousness for the African-American, a historical consciousness that has been destroyed by slavery. Namely, historical consciousness is crucial to establishing identity: it is a narrative of where one comes from and what one has accomplished historically. In the case of African-Americans historical consciousness was annulled by systematic European racism. Hughes makes the bold attempt to re-establish this consciousness, thus speaking of “rivers ancient as the world and older than the flow of human blood in human veins.” (222) In essence, Hughes establishes the African historical consciousness by showing how radical the historical dimension of Africa itself is: here, Africa as the original continent of human life shows an African-American historical consciousness that is bound to the very beginnings of humanity itself.

 

Marion Peters in Fitzgerald’s Babylon Revisted is perhaps best approached as representative of how class difference is present throughout society: here, Peters represents the petit bourgeois, who, because of her position in society, inherits the same particular viewpoints of this same social strata. This may seem paradoxical, as Peters’ character is going through a period of relative financial hardship. But the values she places on finances is a bourgeois hardship, and not a true working class hardship. Her self-righteousness is rather symptomatic of her class position: the false superiority of bourgeois classes, as she jokingly asserts when she notes “we’ve suffered like everybody.” (228) In this regard, what Peters represents is a fairly standard account of the particular presuppositions that inform the bourgeois social class, above all defined by the exaltation of comfortable material lifestyles as the apex of human existence, unable to understand other forms of existence, as symbolized in the drunkenness of the narrator and the mental breakdown of the narrator’s wife.

 

Porter’s “The Jilting of Granny Weatherall”’s protagonist of the elderly woman and her approaching death paints a somewhat sad picture of the old woman: the protagonist is constantly reflective on her existence at this moment when she knows she has no time left. This is a touchingly humane narrative, easily understandable by all, even if they have not been through this experience or seen someone else go through it: the incoherence is a result of the incoherence of one’s life when faced with the mystery of death and trying to understand what one’s life was about.

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