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Does 20th/21st century american literature reflect or shape culture - Essay Example

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American writers of the 19th and 20th centuries wrote what they were familiar with. Race relations, poverty, religion, and emerging technologies are only a few topics writers chose. American culture changed rapidly in the 19th and 20th…
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Download file to see previous pages The first societal factor shaping and reflecting American life was the ending of slavery. Many American writers of all colors wrote on this subject. African American writers wrote about the struggle for freedom, declaring that no matter skin color, people are equal. For example, W. E. B. Du Bois’ The Souls of Black Folks strives to convey the unbearable knowledge of his equality with his fellow man, but feels he is behind a “veil” (1). Booker T. Washington also wrote of his experiences as a slave in Up From Slavery. These writers wanted to inspire fellow African American readers to rise above racial stereotypes; that African Americans could write and be educated despite the hate propaganda spewed by racial groups. These writers also enlightened white readers of their plight. During their time, not all readers accepted their message or views, but as society evolved, more readers agreed with their writings.
The end of slavery left African Americans with hope, but also a confused identity. Many African Americans did not know what American society had in store for the future. Different writers reacted differently, reflecting this confusion in their work. Ralph Ellison struggled with his attitude towards white people. He did not know whether to be polite and deferential or mean and sulky (15-16). Alice Walker’s story Everyday Use shows how some African Americans returned to African roots. Dee left home, returning with a new African name and attitude (Walker). Some of the confusion can come from not knowing of ones roots. Slave owners did not document names, dates of birth, gender except to show the ownership of the slaves. Booker T. Washington did not know his exact age or date of birth in Up From Slavery (2).
Not all African Americans reacted to the end of slavery like Booker T. Washington or W. E. B. Du Bois. The caste ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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