Author Archives: mkhanis

Baldwin/Wright/Hurston

Baldwin/Wright:

James Baldwin, to say the least, is quite opinionated in his views on the protest novel. First and foremost, he completely dismisses the idea of anything related to a protest novel on behalf of human rights. There is a possibility of achievement in his views regarding humans, stating that “he is not, after all, merely a member of a Society or a Group or a deplorable conundrum to be explained by Science. He is — and how old fashioned the words sound! — something more than that, something resolutely indefinable, unpredictable” (Baldwin 15). The complexity of the human makes it difficult to transfer over any concrete ideas/symbolisms/what-have-you into any type of literature. To write simply of protest makes it almost silly because it not only stereotypes the writer, but it also places him/her into a tight, limited writing sphere.

When I finished reading Baldwin, I was more than curious to see what Wright had to say about Negro Literature (especially since there was supposed to be a heated debate between these two fellas). What I found in “Blueprint for Negro Literature” was too much of a master plan. Wright writes too manually in relation to the Negro’s responsibility in White society. He writes in a fashion which is very related to the Lenin and other leaders of the Communist Party. Wright focuses the importance of the masses to rise up, and when speaking of Negro writers, he states that “two separate cultures sprang up: one for the Negro masses, crude, instinctive, unwritten, and unrecognized; and the other the sons and daughters of a rising Negro bourgeoisie, bloodless, petulant, mannered, and neurotic” (Wright 3).

In direct conflict with Baldwin, Wright states that “every short story, novel, poem, and play should carry within its lines, implied or explicit, a sense of the oppression of the Negro people, the danger of war, of fascism, of the threatened destruction of culture and civilization; and too, the faith and necessity to build a new world” (Wright 4). ┬áIt is here that I couldn’t help but side with Baldwin argument. While Wright has a pretty steady case, he does not take into consideration the reality. The masses rising up could be possible, of course, but how long will that endeavor take? Baldwin remains loyal to the present. While one focuses on the realism, the other moves more towards hopefulness. Hopefully the masses will rise against the injustices, but as Baldwin so boldly states “our humanity is our burden, our life; we need not battle for it; we need only to do what is infinitely more difficult — that is, accept it”.

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Hurston:

Why is folklore so important to the Negro community? And while trying to figure out it’s importance, one must also take into consideration the ways in which this folklore is received and given to the public. While the Uncle Remus stories were quite popular for a long period of time, those tales were studied by the White man. In her introduction to “Mules and Men”, Zora Neal Hurston states that “we smile and tell him or her something that satisfies the white person because, knowing so little about us, he doesn’t know what he is missing”. Do her experiences in Florida make the African American folkore collected any better or worse than those of Joel Chandler Harris?

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