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Otherness, Research Paper Example

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Research Paper

Otherness has been defined based on the context of how an author wants to use the word in his poem, conversations, context, stories, etc. Dr. Seuss defined otherness as an “us versus them” mentality as it relates to one sneetch being better than the other because of a sneetch’s features and appearance in The Sneetch’s (Giesel, T.S., 1961). Several authors have talked about the concept of otherness in works like White House by Claude McKay, Her Kind by Anne Sexton, Firebird by Mark Doty and Being an Other by Melissa Algranati. 

The definition of othering or otherness has been defined various ways. The origin of otherness was originated by GWF Helgel as an image outside of oneself and as a process to belittle and deemphasize the importance of people different from the majority (Useful Links, 2010). Later the definitions of othering or otherness drew more power and effectiveness in literature and by others authoring the word to become a way to show superiority to those that are different from ones’ self. The literary definition which can be viewed in poems has represented the social and psychological ways in which one group excludes or marginalizes another group; more specifically in the early 1900s of how black people were considered “other” to the white majority and treated (Useful Definitions, 2010). The definition of “other” has alternatively been defined as a way of seeing and characterizing people either positively or negatively to ones’ self.

Claude Mckay has defined othering in his poem, The White House, in the context of marginalizing one particular race over another. The poem points out that he is an “other” in America and he is treated differently by white Americans. Claude McKay was a native of Jamaica and came to this country in 1912 (Smith, 2007). When he arrived he readily identified the differences of how black Americans were treated inferior to white Americans. He also was treated differently for being educated and black skinned by black Americans. He wrote about these differences in his poems that included The White House.

Claude McKay’s verses in the poem symbolize the struggle he felt trying to fit into American society from the perspective of a minority. In the first verse, the door was shut to him and in his face, because he was demoralized by the whites and isolated by the blacks. His published works portrayed the Negro experience, as he saw it, which often created scrutiny and black critics to shudder at revealing the demoralizing the effects this time in history had on black Americans. Thus those with intellect and access to publicize works of art ignored his successful poems and made him feel like an “other” in the beginning even though he was fighting alongside the blacks for equality.

The White House verses about Claude being a savage and descending down the street takes the definition of other to mean he is considered a savage to those who are of a white complexion. He has to descend down the street rather than climbing up. Climbing up would mean he has a way of doing and being better; something that black Americans did not have the right to do. Claude does not like being defined as an “other” and abiding by laws that are against humanity for any race (Smith, 2007). Claude has to struggle, as written in the poem, to maintain his dignity, to not be so angry and stoop to the white American’s levels. Claude does not want to become filled with hate like the white American but to encourage and educate black Americans to stay above the “other”.

References

Geisel, T.S. (1961). The Sneetches and Other Stories. Random House.

Smith, A.E. E. (2007). The Life and Times of Black Poet Claude McKay retrieved March 22, 2010 from Chicken Bones: A Journal for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes at http://www.nathanielturner.com/lifeandtimesofblackpoetclaudemckay.htm

Useful Links. Definitions of Othering. Retrieved  March 22, 2010 from http://www.cwrl.utexas.edu/~ulrich/rww03/othering.htm.

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