A Black Girl By Patricia Smith English Literature Essay

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The two selected works from literature are discussed in detail below. The chosen works are poems relating race and ethnicity. One poem is Country Lovers written by Gordimer and other one is "What's it like to be a Black Girl" by Smith. The poems are summarized in the next section and then later on are compared and contrasted in terms of ethnicity and race.

Summary of Selected Works:

In the poem What It's like to be a Black Girl by Patricia Smith, there was several different tones that came to me when I read the poem. In this poem I felt a lot of pain, suffering and courage. After I read the poem I thought about a little girl losing her innocence, a little girl getting raped. "it's dropping food coloring in your eyes to make them turn blue and suffering the burn in silence". In this line it shows how much pain she was in. Dropping food coloring in your eyes will burn, however to do it in silence is a statement that not much people can make. I personal would be screaming in pain. Also I believe that the color blue plays a critical role in this line. The blue color can stand for many things including pain, sadness, and even death. "It's sweat and Vaseline and bullets", this was another powerful line in the poem. This was the line that originally gave me the idea of a violent rape. This was where the suffering came in. For someone to endure this treatment over and over again is suffering to the maximum. I find that this little girl has been through much more than what we can imagine. For every dark cloud there is a silver lining. It may be hard to think about a silver lining in this story, however there is one. One of the best things a rape victim can do to start coping after the fact is talking about it. I believe that writing this poem was a very good start to dealing with this tragic problem that many men and woman face.

Country Lovers is a short story about a black girl and a white boy who lives in the same town. The setting of the story is in South-Africa. At the time this story happens, South Africa was under a strict apartheid regime. 

The girl works on the farm of the boy's father. Her name is Thebedi. Thebedi is a very good person, but lives under hard circumstances. Her family is poor and she has to work instead of going to school. The boy's name is Paulus. Paulus is a tall, generous and rich boy, but he is also selfish and ruthless. Thebedi and Paulus was friends for a long time. They used to play together when they were kids, but when Paulus started at school they didn't see each other more. They only met when he was home for holidays.

When Paulus was 15 years old he started to meet other girls from the school. He meets a girl at a wedding. They are sleeping together in a bedroom in the house. But even though he meets new girls, he buys gifts for Thebedi. When he comes home, Thebedi and Paulus meet at the river where they used to play together when they were kids. Paulus tells of all the things he has done at school and how the school is. One day in the summer they meet at the river again. After a bath in the river Paulus and Thebedi make love on the riverbed. After that night they meet a lot of times that summer.

When Paulus is 18, he gets his driver's license and the parents start to let him take care of the farm when they are gone in the weekends. Then Paulus and Thebedi stays a lot in the house together. When Thebedi is 18 she gets married to a man called Njabulo. At the same time Paulus is going to a veterinary college and doesn't know about the marriage.

Two months after the marriage Thebedi gets a daughter. The baby is not dark as other African babies are. When Paulus comes home from school and finds out that Thebedi has got a baby, he gets very angry. He walks straight to the house where Thebedi lives. He sees the baby and gets very mad. He says he wants to commit suicide.

Two weeks later, when Paulus' parents are away, he walks down to the baby and takes poison in the milk that Thebedi feeds the baby with. Later Thebedi finds her baby dead and goes to the police to tell what has happened. After one year the case comes up in court. But the court doesn't have enough proof to say that Paulus is guilty. The result was "not guilty".

Comparison and Contrast:

Racial background and ethnicities are represented in the short story "Country Lovers" and the poem "What It's like to be a Black Girl". Both this short story and this poem have a main character or protagonist black female. Both of these women deal with to some degree of discrimination because of their race.

Racism is something that we see, hear, and experience in our everyday lives. It may be something that we do not speak about, just like in the short story "Country Lovers ". The short story entitled "Country Lovers" was written by Nadine Gordimer in 1975" (Clugston, 2010). This short story is about a forbidden love between a young black girl named Thebedi and a young white boy named Paulus Eysendyck; which took place on a South African farm.

The main characters Paul us and Thebedi were raised together since they were kids. Paulus was a white boy and Thebedi, a black girl. The two of them played together and spent much of their childhood days with one another. As time passed they begin to grow up and the distances between the two also grow apart.

Paulus Eysendyck was the son of the farm owner and Thebedi's father worked on Mr. Eysendyck's farm. They both knew they could not be together publicly. Throughout this short story there are many dramatic effects. The first takes place when the narrator talks about Paulus going away to school "This usefully coincides with the age of twelve or thirteen; so that by the time early adolescence is reached, the black children are making along with the bodily changes common to all, an easy transition to adult forms of address, beginning to call their old playmates missus and baasie little master" (Clugston, 2010).

However, the bond created between them as children is still there. Both Paulus' and Thebedi's parents never forbid them from seeing one another but there was always this unspoken knowledge that they knew it was wrong because they always seemed to be hiding the fact that they did spend a lot of time with one another. An example of this would be when Paulus came home from school and brought Thebedi a gift. "She told her father the missus had given them to her as a reward for some works she had done-it was true she sometimes was called to help out in the farmhouse. She told the girls in the kraal that she had a sweetheart nobody knew about, tat away, away on another farm, and they giggled, and teased, and admired her. There was a boy in the kraal called Njabulo who said he wished he could have brought her a belt and ear-rings" (Clugston, 2010).

There's loss of innocence and forbidden love as described here when Paulus watches Thebedi wade in the water "The schoolgirls he went swimming with at dams or pools on neighbouring farms wore bikinis but the sight of their dazzling bellies and thighs in the sunlight had never made him feel what he felt now when the girl came up the bank and sat beside him, the drops of water beading off her dark legs the only points of light in the earth-smelling deep shade. They were not afraid of one another, they had known one another always; he did with her what he had done that time in the storeroom at the wedding, and this time it was so lovely, so lovely, he was surprised . . . and she was surprised by it, too-he could see in her dark face that was part of the shade, with her big dark eyes, shiny as soft water, watching him attentively: as she had when they used to huddle over their teams of mud oxen, as she had when he told her about detention weekends at school." (Clugston, 2010).

The racialism sets in hard towards the end of this short story when Paulus Eysendyck arrived home from the veterinary college for the holidays. This is where he finds out that the young black girl Thebedi had given birth to a baby. When he finds out about the baby he goes to Thebedi's hut to see for himself. When he reaches the hut and see's the baby first hand "He struggled for a moment with a grimace of tears, anger, and self-pity. She could not put out her hand to him. He said, "You haven't been near the house with it?"' (Clugston, 2010). By his reaction when finding out that the two of them had created a life during their forbidden relationship shows how he knew that such thing was not tolerated in his community.

As the story goes on Paulus returned to the hut where Thebedi and the infant child lived; and it states "She thought she heard small grunts from the hut, the kind of infant grunt that indicates a full stomach, a deep sleep. After a time, long or short she did not know, he came out and walked away with plodding stride (his father's gait) out of sight, towards his father's house" (Clugston, 2010).

As you read on you get the realization that Paulus killed the infant child that day when he returned to Thebedi's hut. "The baby was not fed during the night and although she kept telling Njabulo it was sleeping, he saw for himself in the morning that it was dead. He comforted her with words and caresses. She did not cry but simply sat, staring at the door" (Clugston, 2010).

Reading this part of the story tells me that Paulus was very afraid that the community would find out about the relationship between the two and tries to cover it up as if nothing ever happened between the two of them. Which show's you how difficult life must have been back then with the racial discriminations.

At the very end of this story the police had dug up the baby and brought charges against Paulus for murder. Thebedi up on the stand said "She cried hysterically in the witness box, saying yes, yes (the gilt hoop ear-rings swung in her ears), she saw the accused pouring liquid into the baby's mouth. She said he had threatened to shoot her if she told anyone" (Clugston, 2010). Over a year had gone by when Thebedi returned to the court house; but this time she told the court that "she said she had not seen what the white man did in the house" (Clugston, 2010). Because of her testimony "The verdict on the accused was "not guilty"(Clugston, 2010).

The poem "What It's Like to Be a Black Girl (For Those of You Who Aren't)" (Clugston, 2010), which was written by Patricia Smith in 1991. An explanation in its purest form of "What it's like to be a Black Girl (for those of you who aren't)" by Patricia Smith, is just that, an explanation.

From the first three syllables "First of all," the author gives a sense of a story being told. She uses jagged sentence structure and strong forceful language to also show the reader the seriousness of her topic. Smiths poem gives the audience an insider's view into a young black girl's transition into black woman-hood at a time where both being a black girl and a black woman was not as welcomed.

Puberty is usually defined by the biological changes a young girl's body undertakes around the age of 9 up until about 14. "It's being 9 years old and feeling like you're not finished," writes Smith, "like your edges are wild, like there's something, everything, wrong." (Smith, 4) These thoughts run through the minds of puberty stricken young girl.

The poem, "What's it like to be a Black Girl", is a look into the mind of a black girl in a society that is fueled with racism and discrimination, both of race and gender. This person is transitioning from a young black girl into young black women and trying to accept the changes that are taking place within her body. She has been taught to be ashamed of who she is, what she looks like, and where she comes from. She wants her features to look like those who are accepted in society.

Nadine Gordimer was born in 1923, "She has lived in South Africa since birth and, except for a year spent in university, has devoted all her adult life to writing-completing 13 novels and 10 short story collections, works that have been published in 40 languages. Her strong opposition to apartheid, the socioeconomic system that oppressed the majority black population in South Africa (1949-1994), is a dominant theme in her writing, with her later works reflecting challenges accompanying the changing attitudes in the country toward racial relationships. She was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1991" (Clugston, 2010). Patricia Smith who was born in 1955, was an African American poet and performance artist, has won the National Poetry Slam four times.

The hardships that these women suffer during their life can be suffered by anyone but growing up in a discriminatory atmosphere creates a more dramatic story or out come. The great thing about reading is that it brings you to another place, time and feeling. At times a story can make you smile with the character, and other times make you cry with him. Even with some stories and poems the literature may even allow the reader to identify with the characters.

In conclusion, reality can often be a lot like a piece of literature, in that a person may be going through the exact same thing, or something similar, and be feeling the same way. It is effortless to view the tough and unspoken racism demonstrated in Nadine Gordimer's "Country Lovers" as well as how the girl feels in Patricia Smith's What It's Like to Be a Black Girl (For Those of You Who Aren't). In both readings you get a sense of the hardship's that both the characters had faced because of racism; the things that people may do or allow happening because it is so hard.