Freedom Slaves Why Not English Literature Essay

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The issue of social injustice plays an important role in both of the stories. In "The Man who was almost a Man", Richard Wright tells a story about young African American boy named Dave, who is working for a white farmer owner. He feels that he doesn't have any respects as an adult from neither his family nor his co-workers: "Ah mol enough to hava gun. Ahm seventeen. Almos a man." (page 405), so he intends to get a gun for himself in order to become a man. Just like what the other teenagers in his age, it is time when he feels like he needs to be treated as an adult, whether it is good or bad he doesn't know having a gun is a big deal. He unintentionally gets involved in a murder because of the gun; he accidentally shoots a mule at his farm owner. After shooting the mule, "There were white and black standing in the crowd" (page 411) when he "cried, seeing blurred white and black faces" (page 411), the words "black" and "white" are emphasized that not only the situation of the dead mule becomes a concern, but also the people's colors around him become more important. Wright reveals more clearly the injustice that he has when Dave is then claimed to be another mule when the owner bitterly tells his father: "Just let the boy keep on working and pay me two dollars a month." There are ways to deal with it, fifty dollars total, and two a month, probably the owner does this on purpose since he is not a white citizen, and he has no choice but to pay. The mention of skin color above now makes this about more than just that debt, but about the ideas of slavery in injustice. In "Letter to his master", the same situation is certainly revealed. To the white people, educating a slave is against the law; therefore, most slaves are illiterate, and this is unfair to all of them. "You remember…, you would take every vent of it from me every Saturday night, saying that I belonged to you and my earnings so" (page 159). Douglass is showing the disagreement between the fact that slaves are human beings and the fact that slave owners treat them as property. Slaves are valued only to the amount that they can perform products; slaves are treated as cruel as livestock, objects or animals, without reason. They are not even allowed to use or at least keep what they themselves earn by their labors. Thus, they certainly cannot help having indignation.

Anger is something that is unavoidable if a person has already suffered too many unfair situations. Even though Douglass's letter is written in a rightful way (or in a polite way), but somehow, one can find anger in his words. "I meant to have said more with respect to my own prosperity and happiness, but…proceed further in that direction." (page 161) Through the tone Douglass uses to tell his former slaveholder how life is like being a freeman, when he has children and doesn't have to worry about slaveholders taking them away from him, where there are no more chains, gags, bloody whips, no more pain for his family. It seems like he is pouring out his anger to the slaveholder about his past life being a slave. He uses his anger to depict a powerful picture of what it is like to be a slave, how the world looks from the bottom. However, when the anger from Douglass's compared to the anger of Dave in Wright's story, it is something different. Both of these indignations are from the injustice world of slavery, but Dave's anger is even greater. Since he first has the gun on his hand, his has been a strong sense of power. "Could kill a man wida gun like this. Kill anyboday, black or white" (page 408). As soon as he withdraws the pistol out, although he does not really know how to use it, holding the gun, he senses the power and the manliness. It also reveals a darker desire in him, a great desire to revenge those people that abuse and laugh at him. Dave's daydreaming not only about taking revenge on the black farm workers who make fun of him on the field, but also on those white owners who take advantage and control his and other blacks' lives. Wright uses Dave in this way to explore the harsh influence of prejudice of black Americans. "When he reached the top of a ridge…, looking at Jim Hawkins' big white house, feeling the gun sagging in his pocket." Yet Dave hasn't purposely killed anyone, but when he runs away at the end of the story, it is somehow shown that his desire for power is still, and one day he still can come back and revenge for what they have done, when he is already a man.

In life, decisions can always be made, bringing either good or bad things. In "Letter to his master" and "The man who was almost a man", decisions are made after they have suffered injustice, racism, and indignation. Both of the protagonists have their own way to deal with it. In the story of Frederick Douglass, decisions are made correctly, helping him gain freedom and a better life for his family while the story of Wright shows that with decision-making comes a consequence. However, that is how life of the African-American people are, that is what they have to suffer, or experience in their daily lives.