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Literature in its many forms have been used to pleasure, enlighten and entertain It has been an avenue greatly traveled by authors to voice their political, social, community and individual thoughts, ideas and feelings. The ability to understand the different genres, the times in which the works were created, and a bit of the author's biographies better help one understand how literature is used to reflect what is going on in the community, society and the author's lives.
Hughes "Theme for English B" illustrates how the speaker, a student not himself, serves three views of his feelings in society. First, the speaker, the only African American in class, is set apart from the other students and the professor in the beginning by stating, "I am the only colored student in my class (DiYanni). The geographical location of the college, although in Harlem, is set apart because of its position on a hill. "The steps down from the hill lead down into Harlem (DiYanni). This is relevant to the speaker's feelings of a learned people looking down upon the unlearned. The final view is where the speaker himself resides, "â€¦ and I come to the Y, the Harlem branch Yâ€¦" Here the speaker seems to imply that no matter how high up you go, you still have to come down. It also seems to speak volumes about racial inequality in the mind of the speaker.
Go home and write/ a page tonight.
And let that page come out of you---
Then, it will be true.
The speaker simply states a few rather provoking ideas about how his work for his English class will be received. He wonders if the paper is received for its content , or graded differently because he is not of the same ethnicity as the rest of the class. "Being me it will not be white. But it will be a part of you, instructor. You are white-yet a part of me, as I am a part of you". Although his thoughts, interests, emotions, and feelings are the same as the others, he wonders if he is graded fairly.
Hughes uses the words "That's American" is used to symbolically show what is meant to be an American. The fact that their skin colors are different, "â€¦yet a part of me, as I am of you". The phrase "That's American" symbolizes that it does not matter the color of your skin; America is a country of multiple ethnic groups, live and work equally. However, this was not a true depiction because prejudice though not as readily practiced in New York did still exist. By allowing us to view the speaker's thought processes and giving us a peek at how he feels one can deduce that some things are common to all ethnic groups.
Although there were no direct contrasts between the story "The Cathedral" by Raymond Carver and the poem "Theme for English B" by Langston Hughes, there were several similarities in the bigotry and prejudice, whether it was real or implied, throughout most of the story.
The story is told by an unnamed, middle aged, white male narrator and given from the narrator's point of view. The setting, though not given in the story takes place in the home of the narrator and his wife. Although the story titled "The Cathedral", it is not what the story is about. The cathedral symbolizes the religious or spiritual experience of the narrator, the epiphany. The story is quite multifaceted to include isolation, communication, jealousy, alienation loneliness, and irony.
In the opening paragraph of "The Cathedral", one is able to detect an opened air of prejudice. The narrator's tone in his opening statement, "This blind man, an old friend of my wife's, was on his way to spend the night.", "He was no one I knew", and "His blindness bothered me" (DiYanni), illustrates how preconceived ideas can lead to prejudice. Raymond Carver's story "Cathedral" ties two people together for and evening of shared experience. One is sighted. One is blind. For a man who is sighted, the narrator has little to say about what he sees.
The narrator is a man living a monotonous life, continuously feeding his closed and bigoted mind. During the process of guiding Robert through the drawing of the cathedral, shows how the narrator moves from a dark place in his life and begins a transformation in which he is at last had to meet the man in the mirror. This awakens the narrator's humility, imagination, and faith.
In Raymond Carver's Cathedral, the narrator is also not a very sensitive man. He is easily be described as self-centered, superficial and egotistical. The narrator's actions illuminate these points, it is his ignorance of the people and the relationships that most decidedly show this flaw in his character. Though Robert is physically blind, it is the narrator has gone through life with blinders on. According to the narrator, blindness is Robert's defining characteristic.
Insecurities surmount after Robert arrives and the wife shows more attention to Robert than to her husband.
The narrator is learning more about himself as the night progresses. He reminds himself of an incident that his wife will never forget. He recalls the instant when the blind man "touched his fingers to every part of her face- even her neck! She never forgot it" (DiYanni). The experience of this successful communication changes the narrator's attitude somewhat. He had yet to acknowledge that Robert is a person. Not acknowledging Robert as a person because he is blind, will not diminish who he is, nor the importance he has in his wife's life. It also shows him to be truly ignorant and prejudiced.
The narrator lives in a secluded haven he has created for himself. He feels the "blind man" coming to stay the night is an invasion of his privacy.
Robert, on the other hand, does not walk with a cane or wear sunglasses. He sports a long beard, actually dresses, and carries himself well. These things further reduce more of the preconceived ideas the narrator had. None of the information the narrator had had ever been investigated, but, was based on what he had seen on television.
The wife of the narrator, who is also nameless, did not ask much of her husband. Having tried to end her life during a previous marriage, she had pretty much resigned herself to a marriage that was non-communicative and lonely. By habit of asking anything of her husband, she did ask one thing. "If you love me, you can do this for me. If you don't, okay. But, if you had a friend, any friend, and the friend came to visit, I'd make him feel comfortable" (DiYanny, 2007).
The narrator's hostility towards Robert seems at times to be associated with the closeness of the relationship between Robert, and his, the narrator's, wife. The narrator's chauvinistic ideas that women must to been seen to be important, gives a general outlook of how he viewed and treated his wife. Watching Robert with his wife, the narrator now has to come to grips with the reality that Robert can hear his wife's voice, touch her skin, feel the love in her kiss, know her beauty from the inside out, makes him uncomfortable in his own skin and highly jealous.
The story is not just about the drawing of a cathedral. The cathedral is symbolic of the coming together with the unknown and having the courage to face it without prejudice and hatred, and fear. The narrator learns that by working together he can help Robert envision the cathedral and Robert is able to have the narrator closed eyes and mind opened to see much more than he had ever seen before. The narrator is seeing through the eyes of the blind. "His fingers rode my fingers as my hand went over the paper" (DiYanni).
A description of the narrator's character is as one who is fearful. Because he has never known anyone who is blind, the visit from the blind man frightens him. The visit from the blind man is representative of the unknown. That which is unknown, we fear.
The story "Everyday Use" by Alice Walker tells the story of a woman and her two daughters, Dee and Maggie, and their different ideas about their heritage and their identities. Dee is a very self centered, egotistical and superficial person. Dee, was determined to stare down any disaster in her efforts to rise above the socio-economic station she into which she was born. A hint is given that Dee burned the house because she hated it so much. One important quality of Dee is her lack of respect for her Mom and sister.
Maggie, on the other hand, is quite the opposite of her sister. Darker of complexion with a different grade of hair, Maggie never sees herself quite as pretty or as "bright" as Dee. Maggie had always held her sister in a mixture of envy and awe because of the burns and disfigurements received from the fire. She thinks her sister has held life always in the palm of one hand, that "no" is a word the world never learned to say to her (DiYanni, 2007).
The story is set in the yard of the second home of Maggie and her mama. The mother, "a large, big boned woman with rough, man-working hands and a second grade education is in a kind of reverie awaiting the return of her prodigal daughter. Even though she is economically and technically poor, the mother is content knowing that the basic needs for Maggie and herself had been met. The mother feels that she represents everything that Dee despises.
At last, when Dee arrives, she has undergone a metamorphosis of sorts. Things about her has physically had changed. The immediate changes seen were the style of her hair, manner of dress and speaking. "Wa-su-zo-Tean-o!" and "Asalamalakin", and Wangero Leewanika Kemanjo because she couldn't bear it any longer being named after the people who oppress me." (DiYanni).
The purpose of Wangero's visit finally became known and was captured in the eye signals passed between Wangero and Hakim-a-barber. Once again, Wangero had come not bearing gifts, but, to receive them. She wanted to collect items from her mother that would enhance her newfound ethnicity and cultural awakening. The mother concedes almost everything that Wangero asked for, but she was unwavering in denying her the quilts that were promised to Maggie as a wedding gift. At this point, Maggie was willing to give in to her sister. "She can have them Ma', I can 'member Grandma Dee without the quilts." (DiYanni).
This point in the story was pivotal. The mother snatched the quilts out of Miss Wangero's hands and dumped them into Maggie's lap. The mother remained unrelenting. This shows what a dynamic character mama is. She has finally come to the realization that her older daughter was only out for herself and could care less about the feelings of others. In addition, because of the change in mama, Maggie undergoes a change as well. Maggie smiles a real smile. The first real smile in a while.
At the end of the story, Mama sees and understands both of her daughters clearly...One for the superficial, self-involved person that she is and the other for the first time, a truly loving person with a real sense of dignity, ancestral pride, and knowledge of family history.
The theme and setting of the story, the symbolism of the o the quilt all are significant in the presentation of this warm and wonderful short story.