African-American in the Third Chapter Essay

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In keeping with the theme of individuality highlighted above, each of the main characters in the assigned readings struggle to define his or her identity in terms of the dichotomies in the society they observe. Each point-of-view differs according to the person's stage of life and background, and each person seeks to establish an identity by means of the cultural and social tools they have at their disposal. At times these tools comprise family members, friends, or teachers, and at others they are something much more focused and personal, such as the intellect or determination.

Sylvia, the main character of "The Lesson," establishes her identity in terms of the financial contrast between her own social construct and those who can spend $1,000 on a toy. For her, the concept of financial security provides a platform for constructing an identity. Her determination to contend with the rich for a place in the world defines her in the end.

For Baraka's main character, Mickey, the search for identity is vaguely personified by the beauty of young "American girls." These girls represent for him the ultimate of being American. It is for him a reality that he cannot attain, but that he wishes above all to pursue. In this, his determination runs parallel with that of Sylvia.

Elethia in turn regarded Albert as the personification of her identity as African-American. It is a much clearer presentation than those of Sylvia and Mickey. Albert represents the pride of the African-American regardless of circumstances and regardless of oppression. The act of burning the dummy is an act of rebellion against the conception of black slaves as willing servants. Finally, in "To Da-Duh, in Memoriam," the main character is a little girl for the majority of the story. Her identity is informed by her own inner power, which strikes her grandmother during their initial meeting. She is strongly influenced by the contrast between her home in New York and Da-Duh's more rural background; this follows…

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