Perpetuating Negative Racial Stereotypes in Literature
Racial stereotypes have been a pervasive part of American culture for centuries. From the minstrel shows of the 19th century to the modern media, the negative portrayal of racial groups has remained a prominent issue. Literature, as a reflection of society, has also been guilty of perpetuating negative racial stereotypes. This essay will analyze three works of literature: A Raisin in the Sun by Lorraine Hansberry, How it Feels to be Colored Me by Zora Neale Hurston, and Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston. It will examine how each work contributes to the perpetuation of negative racial stereotypes.
A Raisin in the Sun is a play that explores the lives of an African-American family living in Chicago during the 1950s. The play is centered on the family's desire to move into a better neighborhood and the obstacles they face in doing so. One of the key stereotypes perpetuated in the play is the idea that African Americans are inherently poor and uneducated. The characters are all struggling financially, and the play reinforces the notion that African Americans are limited in their opportunities for success. Additionally, the play portrays African American men as lazy and unmotivated. The character Walter, for example, spends his days dreaming of becoming rich but is unable to follow through on his plans.
Similarly, Zora Neale Hurston's essay, How it Feels to be Colored Me, perpetuates negative racial stereotypes. Hurston presents herself as an exception to the rule, suggesting that she is not like other African Americans. She portrays herself as a "rarity" and a "curiosity" because she is able to transcend her race. This perpetuates the stereotype that African Americans are inferior and that it is exceptional for them to be able to succeed.
Their Eyes Were Watching God is a novel that tells the story of an African American woman named Janie Crawford and her journey to find love and self-discovery. While the novel is celebrated for its portrayal of African American culture and language, it also perpetuates negative stereotypes. For example, the novel portrays African American men as violent and abusive. Janie's first husband, Logan Killicks, is physically abusive towards her, and her second husband, Joe Starks, is emotionally abusive. This perpetuates the idea that African American men are inherently violent and aggressive.
In conclusion, these three works of literature all perpetuate negative racial stereotypes. A Raisin in the Sun portrays African Americans as poor and uneducated, and African American men as lazy and unmotivated. How it Feels to be Colored Me suggests that African Americans are inferior and that it is exceptional for them to succeed. Their Eyes Were Watching God portrays African American men as violent and abusive. It is important for us to critically analyze the literature we consume and recognize how it contributes to the perpetuation of negative racial stereotypes. Only then can we work towards creating a more equitable and just society.
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