Non-Violence vs. Self-Defense
African-American literature was influenced by the great diaspora of the African Americans whose history is full of suffering, sadness and blood. It resulted in the shaping of many countries. The topic of black heritage and struggles in the USA created post-colonial literature realm. However, scholars have drawn a distinction between the two techniques used to represent the event of the struggle. The African-American literature written by various scholars is different from post-colonial literature created by minority community members. They resided within a nation that possessed vast wealth and was characterized by economic power.
Non-violence and self-defence are eternal subjects in the literature of the Black Freedom Struggle. It is crucial to analyze literary techniques and genres used by authors to articulate this topic. Non-violence has always had a conflicting meaning with self-defense. As a result, many authors have different visions of it. The objects for analysis are “2 Mob Victims Ready to Die for Integration” by Bob Duke, “Tear Gas and Hymns” by Murray Kempton and Voices of Freedom by Henry Hampton, Steve Fayer and Sarah Flynn. All these works belong to the literature of the Black Freedom Struggle. However, they differ in the tone and depiction of non-violence and self-defense (Hampton, Fayer and Flynn 74).
The essays “2 Mob Victims Ready to Die for Integration” and “Tear Gas and Hymns”, and the book Voices of Freedom are devoted to the battle for freedom. Many nations struggled to free themselves from poor and abusive governance, slavery and oppression. This paper reveals how genre affects the way in which the theme in these texts and the monumental volume of interviews of the different people is articulated. It discusses a variety of literary techniques that can enhance or deter a full expression of the issue of non-violence vs. self-defence. Moreover, this essay analyzes literary techniques used to articulate the topic successfully.
Non-violence has always has a conflicting meaning with self-defense. During the battle for freedom, nations adopted various ways to demonstrate their dissatisfaction with the oppression that they experienced. Therefore, non-violent resistance, similarly to non-violent action, refers to the practice of attaining goals through Satyagraha, political or economic noncooperation, civil disobedience or symbolic protests. The purpose of the protest is to evade violence or violent related activities and indulgences.
“2 Mob Victims Ready to Die for Integration” is an essay that reveals the problem of black people fighting for their rights, equality and freedom. It is evident that Bob Duke is sympathetic to black people as his white characters support equality between all human beings. The usage of the derogatory words like mob, Negro for African-American people proves their abuse and the negative attitude of the society towards them.
It is evident that using the derogatory vocabulary has an ironical meaning as the author mocks, sympathizes and feels pity for African-American people at the same time. Such literary technique as irony emphasizes non-violence of the Black people. Without any doubt, these are white people who made monsters and slaves from them. Ironic tone of this story is like the way of self-defense.
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“Tear Gas and Hymns” is a journalistic essay by Murray Kempton. The similarity of this essay with the previous one is evident in total irony. The connection of the elevated vocabulary with derogatory words creates the feeling of hopefulness. Irony and black humor are the ways of self-defense for the African-American people.
Another literary technique used in the literature of the Black Freedom Struggle is religious motives. Black people often address God in their praying, and this is their way of preservation of non-violence. “We thank Thee, Lord, for the protection Thou hast given us”, writes Murray Kempton (581). This statement proves the strong beliefs that are reflected in their literature. The usage of the Old English vocabulary (Thee, Thou, hast) reveals their desire of self-defense and saving their identity. One can see the non-violent character of Black people through their unity. For example, the pronouns we and our are frequently used in literary works of the Black Freedom Struggle. It means that African Americans are friendly and united when it comes to their self-defense.
The main issues discussed in African-American literature are racial discrimination, abuse, poverty and isolation from the community. One can see that Bob Duke and Murray Kempton express the concepts of non-violence and self-defense as necessity for the African-American people. Even in the titles of these short stories, one can feel the desire to rebel. “Tear Gas and Hymns” is full of irony and mocking at the gap between the black and the white. “2 Mob Victims Ready to Die for Integration” demonstrates the determinacy of black people to self-defense.
Bob Duke and Murray Kempton communicate the topics of self-defense and non-violence through vocabulary. The brutal kicking, violence, stomping and killing are the most used words that prove abuse and humiliation of African Americans. The common feature of the literature of the Black Freedom Struggle is a spiritual meaning related to the Bible, praying and cultural values.
The slave narrative genre which is African-American in nature developed in the mid-19th century. Fugitive slaves who escaped to freedom mainly wrote the stories on their experiences in the Southern America. They intended to bring out the cruelty of slavery; in addition, they incited other slaves to fight for their rights.
There was controversy over the idea of slavery at the time, and as a result, the literature was highly expressive from both sides. The slave narratives are classified into three types, namely tales to inspire abolitionist struggle, tales of religious redemption and tales of progress. The anti-abolitionist tales are less popular because of the autobiographical motif they have. They are the 19th century writings that are the most literary. The most famous are Fredrick Douglass’ autobiography and Harriet Jacobs’s incidents in the slave girl life.
Moreover, the African-American culture is rich in poetry. It includes spirituals, blues, gospel and music. This oral poetry has also appeared in the African-American tradition with specific references to the Christian sermons. Various literary devices like deliberate repetition, alteration and cadence are used. African-American literature has a tradition of adopting all oral poetic forms.
The topics of self-defense and non-violence in poetry are expressed through the melodic tone of the poems and repetition of the several lines. For example, “Ain’t gonna let nobody turn me round, turn me round, turn me round” (Hampton, Fayer, and Flynn 95). Songs and oral poetry are ways of self-defense using non-violent means.
A common trope in the African-American literature was signification. Irony, hyperbole, metonymy, litotes, metaphor and synecdoche are the stylistic devices that help to articulate the themes of self-defense and non-violence. “Hallelujah, I’m a-travelin’, Hallelujah, ain’t it fine? Hallelujah, I’m a-travelin’, Down Freedom’s main line” (Hampton, Fayer, and Flynn 93). Repetition in this poem reinforces the desire of African-Americans for non-violent action. The use of poetry was a form that was able to pass the appropriate message to people of the world in oral or written forms.
Having analyzed the journalistic essays, it becomes evident that self-defense and non-violence are common themes the literature of the Black Freedom Struggle. The literary works use various expressions such as religious motives, ironic tone of the narration and combination of derogatory words with the literary ones. Various stylistic means like deliberate repetition, alteration and cadence are used to reflect feelings and emotions of black people in their desire to oppose humiliation and abuse; total irony in proves the topicality of the issues of self-defense and non-violence for them. The repetition and alliteration in the poetry proves the hope of African-Americans for happy life without violence and constant struggle for defense.
Without any doubt, the genre (novel, poem, short story) influences the way the issues are depicted. It affects the way one regards the problem (emotionally, sympathetically and reluctantly). For example, a short story can describe self-defense and non-violence more sharply using irony. As for the poem, it adds more playful and optimistic tone to the issue. One can say that all stories, poems, novels are united with the only desire to live in non-violence and self-defense for freedom and national identity. Literary techniques (stylistic means, genres) enhance the expression of the theme of self-defense and non-violence. For example, in poetry, stylistic devices are used for stronger expression of emotions and feelings. In prose, the authors pay more attention to the events and facts. Literary techniques can deter from the expression of the problem if one treats symbols and metaphors wrongly. The African-American authors tried to depict events indirectly as the government forbade their literature otherwise.
To sum up, non-violence and self-defense in the literature of the Black Freedom Struggle are expressed similarly in all styles. The differences between them concern the diversity of the stylistic devices and the sharpness of the issue. The essays “2 Mob Victims Ready to Die for Integration” by Bob Duke and “Tear Gas and Hymns” by Murray Kempton are successful at articulating self-defense and non-violence. The book Voices of Freedom by Henry Hampton, Steve Fayer and Sarah Flynn is less successful than the analyzed essays because it focuses on the position of a black man in the community. However, in general, the issue of non-violence vs. self-defense is the most burning problem in the literature of the Black Freedom Struggle.