The Portrayal of Malcolm X and His Beliefs in Literature

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When explaining his purpose, the author shares Malcolm X’s belief that truly understanding someone requires that “his whole life, from birth, must be reviewed” (p. 153). The author’s structural choice to begin The Autobiography of Malcolm X when Malcolm X was still in his mother’s womb highlights this purpose, stressing that the importance of knowing even the context within which a person is born is essential for understanding why Malcolm X thinks and acts the way he does throughout his life. By beginning the text with the terrifying and violent event in which Klansmen aggressively harass Malcolm X’s parents, “shattering every window pane with their gun butts” (p. 1), the author demonstrates that Malcolm X is born in a time and place of intense, explicit racism and discrimination. The frightening and emotional content of this event engages the reader with Malcolm X’s life from the very beginning, thereby contributing to the power of the text.

When describing Malcolm X’s development into a hipster, the author’s stylistic choice to employ imagery creates a detailed, vivid picture of what Malcolm looks like and how he begins to fit into the “hipster style” (p. 61). The author describes Malcolm’s first zoot suit as “shark-skin gray, with a big, long coat, and pants ballooning out at the knees and then tapering down to cuffs so narrow that [he] had to take off [his] shoes to get them on and off,” and his new shoes as “dark orange colored, with paper-thin soles and knob style toes” (p. 61). This imagery functions like a photograph of Malcolm at this time in his life. This stylistic choice enhances the beauty of the text.

As Malcolm comes closer to being caught for his robberies, the author’s stylistic choice to use figurative language conveys Malcolm X’s thoughts on that time in his life. Malcolm X reflects that “[he] had gotten to the point where [he] was walking on [his] own coffin” and that “[i]t’s a law of the rackets that every criminal expects to get caught” (p. 149). The imagery of walking on a coffin and the figurative language of calling the likelihood of being caught a “law” emphasize Malcolm X’s acknowledgement that he was living a very dangerous lifestyle that was certain to end poorly for him. Making the stylistic choice to employ figurative language to convey this emphasis contributes to the power of the text.

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