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How Do Literature and Culture Influence Each Other? Essay

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Updated: Dec 24th, 2021

Literature and culture has a close camaraderie. Often fiction portrays the innate soul of a culture and reveals its best kept secrets. In similar fashion, Black literature demonstrates the African American life, living, and existence. Black literature demonstrates aspects of African American culture through stereotypes of black matriarchy and the desire for liberation and transcendence into the higher social order of America. The otherness is very strong in the Black literature as it is among African Americans. The thesis for the paper is Black literature sanctifies the Otherness and Black Nationalism atypical of African American culture.

Discourse of the otherness in black literature is very strong. In the drama, Raisin in the Sun (Hansberry) the theme of otherness and alienation finds central place. The discourse of otherness in the black literature demonstrates the alienation of the Black youth from the American way of life. This is shown by Langston Hughes in the poem Theme For English B, where the poet states: “I guess being colored doesn’t make me NOT like/ the same things other folks like who are other races/ So will my page be colored that I write?” (Hughes, Themes for English B) Thus, the ingrained otherness of the Whites from the Blacks in America reverberates in the literature and Afro-American society alike.

Black literature stresses Black Nationalism on African American identity. One element of Black Nationalism is solidarity that is unlike the individualistic American culture. However, the African-Americans were close to one another and demonstrated strong community and family bonding. Both Raisin in the Sun and The autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman (Gaines) show this character. This was mainly because the blacks did not have the freedom to express or to practice their own culture. The ousting of the Blacks from the dominant society forms the major themes in literary works like Raisin in the Sun and The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. African Americans have been fighting a war of liberation since the American civil wars. In order to be socially uplifted, the Blacks have tried to be a part of the White society or completely look back at their Black roots. The Black otherness shows through the stereotypical presentation of black femininity. In The autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, Ernest Gaines reemphasizes the Afro-American male as a passive caricature of a clown while Black females represent the dominant matriarch. The stereotype of Black matriarchy is predominant in most of the African American literature. In Raisin in the Sun, Mama plays a dominant role in the family and it is on her insistence that the house for the family is brought. Marriage in Black literature shows as a constricting factor for Black women who lose their freedom through marriage. Beneatha in Raisin in the Sun refrains from marriage to retain her freedom as an individual. Miss Jane in The autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman shows her role as a matriarch of the Black society ultimately fighting for their cause. Thus, the black matriarchy becomes a symbol that brought the Black society together.

The question of Black dream lingers through most of the black literature. Afro-Americans during the 1950s and after have faced discrimination to the extent that they have found their dreams to be “deferred’ indefinitely. Langston Hughes demonstrates this aspect of “deferred” Black dream in A Dream Deferred (Hughes, A Dream Deferred). Discrimination that has led to “deferred dreams” is evident in Raisin in the Sun, The autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, Theme for English B, and A Dream Deferred. The dream to transcend to a higher social order dissolves in these literary works as is found in reality.

Otherness, discrimination, and Black Nationalism have always been a dominant theme in Afro-American literature. These themes reveal the cultural difference between the Whites and Blacks in America. The otherness in American society and the discrimination that the Blacks faced are evident from history. The age long, discrimination has led to otherness of the Whites by Blacks and is fund as the truth through these literary works. Literature has reaffirmed these truths.

Works Cited

  1. Gaines, Ernest. The autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman. Dial Press, 1971. Print.
  2. Hansberry, Lorraine. A Raisin in the Sun. New York: Vintage Books, 1994. Print.
  3. Hughes, Langston. “A Dream Deferred.”1996. VirginiaTech.
  4. “Themes for English B.” 1951. Harvard University.
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