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Do humans still have their rights?
Free essay example:
ENGLISH COURSEWORK - LANGUAGE AND IDENTITY
Do humans still have their deserved rights to speak?
The topic I am going to talk about is what identity really is and how it affects people. My English coursework is based upon the topic of language and identity. I decided this was a topic which was important to discuss. The three main subjects for my discussion will be:
- Martin Luther King, in a speech to Civil Rights marchers from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, 28 August 1963. King’s speech is a landmark of American history, and world history. At the rally King made his celebrated ‘I have a dream’ speech in which he looked to the day ‘when all God’s children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, “Free at last, free at last, thank God Almighty, we’re free at last” Martin Luther King believed in the identity of the people, he believed in equality and this is what he campaigned for. His speech is a strong and touching piece of art, the ideal setting to search for ones identity.
- The Color Purple by Alice Walker. ‘Dear God: I am fourteen years old. I have always been a good girl. Maybe you can give me a sign letting me know what is happening to me…’ So begins Alice Walker’s touching, complex and engrossing prize-winning novel, set in the harsh, segregated world of the Deep South between the wars. Celie has been raped by the man she calls father; her two children have been taken away from her; she has been forced into an ugly marriage. She has no one else to talk to but God. ‘The Color Purple’ is a strong telling story which examines the way a young girl was treated and the way she has grown up because of the colour of her skin. The story has a major concern with identity.
- The third text I will be examining is an autobiographical account. I will discuss a section from Frederick Douglass’s Autobiography, he is said to be one of the most influential American black activists of his time. He writes about his life as a slave in the southern states of America and his eventual flight to freedom in the north. When Douglass escaped, he toured America lecturing on the evils of slavery and became famous as an orator. He wrote his autobiography which was published in 1845 it did much to hasten the eventual abolition of slavery in America. His story is about his life as a slave and the different ways he was treated. It is then he begins to learn who he is. Once again the aspect of identity, colour, race and creed is an essential ingredient in this story.
I believe the three texts that I have chosen are all well connected and coincide with each other. The King speech is where the people are protesting about their identity and what they believe in. ‘The Color Purple’ is written by a woman who attempts to relate to a young girls life during those times and what hardships she went through, the search for her identity. The final text is an autobiographical account where we go back the furthest in time and learn what it really was like and how people actually lived. All 3 accounts reflect on identity and all show different people searching for what their identity means, with the speech King is protesting for the realisation of identity and the fact that all people are the same. In ‘The Color Purple’ the young girl is in search of why all the bad things are happening to her and she confides in God, asking him to explain her identity. The autobiographical account shows a man who is learning about his identity and how he attempts to combat the situation and what it means and how it affects his life.
Text 1 –Martin Luther King Speech-
On the 28 August 1963 from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington Martin Luther King was giving another one of his important speeches to the Civil Rights marchers. He was a man who was used to making speeches leading protests and getting people organised. King was speaking on behalf of every black man who had ever been called a ‘slave’, or ever been treated like they weren’t human, like they had no identity. He was protesting about the identity of a man, the identity of a black man and what identity really meant. King wanted people to understand that all men are equal and whether white or black they are all one. He was attempting to answer the question which was set on the lips of many people, white or black, what identity really meant to them?
“I am happy to join with you today in what will go down in history as the greatest demonstration for freedom in the history of our nation”
From the outset King is showing his views on identity. These two lines are a powerful opening to the speech; here King has declared that by joining the people he is one of them, regarding the identity of everybody at the rally including himself, equal. He has made clear the demonstration is in aid of ‘freedom’ from the cage where identity and any sort of human right has been stolen from the black individual. He describes the nation as ‘our’, from this we can gather he is clearly stating that all the people present and within America belong to the nation, it is a home for one and all, it is the identity of a man, which if unclear now must be made clear.
King proceeds to talk about how the black man is still not treated correctly and that the black man should be free.
“Now is the time to lift our nation from the quicksands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood; now is the time to make justice a reality for all of God’s children”
King here is using a term called poetic qualification, which comes up throughout his speech, where he talks about “quicksands…brotherhood” he is using a metaphor where he describes the racial injustice as quicksand, the idea that people are quick to judge others and identity does not matter to them; if you are black you are wrong. King realises if all people were to act as brothers and as one family, the character and identity of any man would be solid, he uses the word solid as a means of describing the potential of all men if they came together, the strength of their identity. King goes on to use a sentimental feature ‘children’, by talking about the children, the pillars of the community he is attempting to make the people realise that their identity must be realised so their children can be free, he describes children as all belonging to God. Here King is once again bringing together the people as one, unifying the identity of man, the coming together of black and white, all children, all of us belong to one father, God.
King’s speech is an excellent example of protest, which is what he is aiming for, but the importance of identity is ripe within the speech. This can be clearly seen in the following line:
“There will be neither rest nor tranquillity in America until the Negro is granted his citizenship rights.”
This line seems to have hidden meaning and it is a line such as this which would have angered the white man, because they may assume it means that King is threatening if the Negro is not accepted in society and his identity not recognised then riots and violence may continue. Another way of looking at the line is that King is trying to make the people understand that if we do not realise that we all have one identity and that we are one family, the people will never be happy and they will never find peace.
“We can never be satisfied as long as the Negro is the victim of unspeakable horrors of police brutality. We can never be satisfied as long as our bodies, heavy with fatigue of travel, cannot gain lodging in the motel of the highways and the hotel of the cities…We can never be satisfied as long as our children are stripped of their selfhood and robbed of their dignity by signs stating ‘For Whites only’”
King begins by speaking about the fact that even the ‘law’ the people who are supposed to protect the country, the police. Whose motto is ‘to serve and to protect’, even these people treat the black man in a way that King cannot describe. It is evident from this line that if the police cannot except the black people and acknowledge their identity the common white man will never understand. King proceeds to talk about how like any human being the black man can be tired and suffers from stress and fatigue, but like any human being the option of staying in a hotel or motel is not available to the black man. Once again we are hit by the seriousness of the discrimination and the total ignorance of identity. Finally King uses the sentimental feature of the children once again, using harsh and bullet like words such as ‘stripped’ and ‘robbed’. A major language technique which King uses here which helps him in the speech and has a lasting affect on the audience is the idea of repetition, the fact that King repeats the line…”We can never be satisfied…” hits his point home and lets the people know what he is talking about. He makes them understand that it is not one thing that needs to be changed but many. He repeats his line with power and force and the people feel involved and motivated.
“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the colour of their skin but by the content of their character. I have a dream today”
These lines come towards the end of King’s speech. These lines tell the story and underline Kings main point; he speaks about how he has a dream that one day his four
children will be able to live in a nation; he means a home, a country for all men, where they are not judged by their colour. King here is speaking about racism and its connection with identity, the idea of the white man seeing beyond the black skin, and
looking in to ones character, the key to all people, the value and identity of their character.
King goes on to talk about his vision and dream; he ends his speech by singing a song. From everything that King is protesting about he underlines the main point of identity and the fact that it must be acknowledged. The language King uses is harsh at times and also very graphic, but it is the words he uses which build the picture in the minds of the people so that they can form a picture of identity, of self realisation. Examples are when King uses phrases such as ‘racial injustice’ and the fact that King refers to ‘God’ a lot. King here is using words and phrases which he believes will affect the people and make them think. King also talks about ‘police brutality’, proving he is not afraid of showing his views and fighting for his people. King uses a number of methods such as the sentimental feature, the poetic qualification, the metaphors and irony all used at different points to mould the mind of the listener in a certain way, and to attract their attention. The audience factor is clear and throughout the speech we can gather that King is speaking to a vast number of people, this is clear because his speech has a number of rhetoric devices, the audience are always an important factor of his speech since it is aimed at them. There are a number of ways we can tell that King is talking to an audience, for example when he uses phrases such as ‘some of you have come fresh from their jail cells’ King here is talking to the members of the audience, also when King uses words such as ‘us’, ‘we’, prove that Kings speech is intended to include his audience and make them part of his speech. By using the connection of language and identity King has made a speech which will take him down in history, and change the life of the black man forever.
1454 Words (Including quotations)
Text 2- The Color Purple, Alice Walker
‘The Color Purple’ is a very sad and touching story. It is all about a young black girl and what she goes through in life because she is black, because like all the people Martin Luther King is protesting to, her identity is ignored and she is treated in an unimaginable way. The story is written like a diary of letters, which the young girl writes to God and her sister and letters she receives. I have chosen various extracts to comment upon.
I am fourteen years old. I have always been a good girl. Maybe you can give me a sign letting me know what is happening to me...He never had a kine word to say to me. Just say you gonna do what your mammy wouldn’t. First he put his thing up against my hip and sort of wiggle it around. Then he grab hold my titties. Then he push his thing inside my pussy. When that hurt, I cry. He start to choke me, saying you better shut up and git used to it”.
This is how Alice Walker’s story begins. Like with the Martin Luther King speech where he mentions children and their torment, here we have a young girl Celie, a child who has to live in this harsh time of injustice, unfairness and ignorance of identity. Her first letter like many others is to God, Martin Luther King continuously talks about God as a father figure and the only way out, In the same way Celie sees God as her only hope and only friend, God seems to be the only person who these people feel they can relate to, like a higher being who can make the hatred and hurt and pain vanish. We feel Celie shows her age by the language she uses, she is confused and unsure of what is happening to her, she has acknowledged that it is bad because she asks God why it is happening to her if she has done nothing wrong. She realises that people have an identity but does not know why it is not recognised, she feels that she is the same as everyone else and thinks she must have done something wrong to deserve this, she doesn’t realise it is because of the simple fact that she is black. The description of how her step father treats her is very graphic and intense. It clearly shows the seriousness of the situation and gives us an insight we may have not been aware of. This extract is a good example of the tone and subject handling throughout the novel. In contrast to Celie’s black dialect is her educated sister, Nettie, whose letters are in perfect ‘normal’ English. The language used is typical of Deep South dialect, this is evident from words such as ‘kine’, ‘mammy’…The language has been written to coincide with the way Celie thinks and the way she acts, her tender age. The image of violence and fear crop up once again towards the end of her letter where we learn her step father also physically hurts her. This reminds us of the King speech, showing us that violence was a method used all the time, whether it was the police or an abusive step father, the identity of the victim was never realised.
…He beat me for dressing trampy but he do it to me anyway”…In the same letter, a man comes to buy one of the girls, he speaks to their step father:
“Well, He say, real slow, I can’t let you have Nettie. She too young. Don’t know nothing but what you tell her…But I can let you have Celie. She the oldest anyway. She ought to marry first. She ain’t fresh tho, but I spect you know that. She spoiled. Twice. But you don’t need a fresh woman no how…Fact is, he say, I got to gir rid of her. She too old to be living here at home…She can take that cow she raise down there back of the crib…Next time you come you can look at her. She ugly. Don’t even look like she kin to Nettie. But she’ll make the better wife. She ain’t smart either…She near 20. And another thing-she tell lies”.
From this second extract the reader and audience really begin to feel for Celie and what she is going through. The beginning of the letter clearly shows us that Celie is treated like a dog, or worse. She is told not to dress trampy and after she is beaten she is raped also. It is clear that she is treated like an object and definitely not a person, the letter goes on and we learn about how two men talk about buying and selling the girls. It is clear that the men need someone to clean and look after their homes and kids and a black woman slave would do. Her step father talks about her not being fresh, basically meaning she is not a virgin and has had kids. The awfulness of the way these men talk about a person being an object and the fact that they talk about Celie's life as if it means nothing really hits home the point of one’s identity. Her step father goes on to talk about Celie’s child being a cow, and he goes on to describe her as ugly and not smart. Also we learn that her step father at the end is lying just to get rid of her, he says she is 20 and that she lies but we know the truth that she is only 14. The language here is very graphic and the audience are pulled in to the story. It is very sad the way young Celie is being treated, not only because she is black and has no identity but also because she is a woman. During those time women were ridiculed and believed to be of a lower class then men, women were used for work and believed to be housewives, they were not important, we can see this from the way Celie is treated. This is exactly what King was protesting about, the understanding of people that all of us are equal. As King could not describe the police brutality previously here we have an inside view of what went on, in a place with no police or law.
I spend my wedding day running from the eldest boy. He twelve. He picked up a rock and laid my head open. His daddy say Don’t do that! But that’s all he say”…Celie then attempts too deal with the young girl’s hair… “They scream. They cuse me of murder. They cry themselves to sleep”.
We have heard a lot about children so far, but here we learn how the children treat Celie, with no respect or value. They take after their father and because of the way they have been brought up and the way that they see their father act towards Celie they have no respect or understanding. The children even abuse their new mother. This is the total opposite to what King said about children being robbed and ripped of their dignity, here the children are the ones that are stealing and robbing the dignity of their step mother, because she is black and considered not important. They are playing a role along with society of taking away Celie’s identity.
The language used throughout the story keeps the audience intrigued. It is the use of the Black English which is one of the most effective devices, it adds realism and catches the reader off guard, and it also puts us in touch with the emotions and events of the book. It is a sad story with a moderate happy ending. In comparison with King’s speech, the letters are what King is protesting about, the bad treatment and disregard of the black people and in the book, black women. Both King’s speech and Alice Walker’s story are protesting about the culture and identity of a person. King does it directly through his speech speaking straight out about it. Alice Walker tells a story which gives us an insight in to the horridness and awfulness of that time, and through each and every letter she is protesting indirectly about the identity of the black woman.
1395 Words (Including quotations)
Text 3- Fredrick Douglass’s autobiography
I have taken a number of extract from Douglass’s autobiography which show the situation he faced and how he handled it. The aspect of identity is very important since the whole of his autobiography is about discovering what his identity really means and how he combats the situation he is faced by.
The extract begins with Douglass meeting a woman who he is slave for and this woman is very kind to him and she does not treat him as a slave should be treated. From this point he begins to realise that there is hope and that maybe he is the same as everyone else. In comparison with Kings speech, Douglass is like a protester learning about his identity, like with ‘The Color Purple’ we are introduced to Celie’s life and a different aspect to what we learn in Kings speech, here in the autobiography we have yet another view to the identity crisis.
“That cheerful eye, under the influence of slavery, soon became red with rage; that voice, made all of sweet accord, changed to one of harsh and horrid discord; and that angelic face gave place to that of a demon”.
The language Douglass uses here is very intense in describing his master, where like we had the aspect of God in King’s speech and in the ‘Color Purple’ here we are introduced to the idea that whilst God is a friend the whites are the demons, out to cause trouble and mayhem.
“…Mrs Auld very kindly commenced to teach me the A, B, C. Mr Auld found out what was going on, and at once forbade Mrs Auld to instruct me further, telling her among other things that it was unlawful and unsafe”…
Here we learn about how Douglass attempted to learn about education and that the woman who he was a slave for was in fact willing to teach him but her husband felt this was wrong, since a slave had no identity and value what was the point in teaching them anything? Or was it that if a slave had education they may be aware of who they are and what they truly deserve, they may realise their identity. This was both King and Douglass went on to do, Celie as she grew up did realise what was going on but she never fully understood it and never really manager to attempt to fight it.
“To use his own words, further, he said, ‘If you give a nigger an inch, he will take an ell. A nigger should know nothing but to obey his master-to do as he is told. Learning would spoil the best nigger in the world. If he knew how to read he would become unmanageable and have no value to his master”.
Here we are introduced to the racial abusive language, the master here is basically saying that the slave has no identity or value and all he is good for is doing what he is told. The language here is similar to that of ‘The Color Purple’ it is also graphic and disturbing. The last line of the master is very important, he says if the slave could read he would become unmanageable and have no value to his master, but the important point here is that the slave would have value for himself. He would recognise his identity and see the reason for his life. This is very similar to what King talks about, education and everyone being equal. It is from this incident that Douglass realises that there is hope and that he can learn. Douglass proceeds to talk about his next owner:
“She was apt woman; and a little experience soon demonstrated, to her satisfaction, that education and slavery were incompatible with each other”.
Douglass here is understanding what people think of him and why people believe that he has no right or hope of education. He was a slave with no identity and that was that. Douglass though was a man who was not willing to give up, even though he was watched by his owners like a hawk to make sure he did not learn.
“Mistress, in teaching me the alphabet, had given me the inch, and no precaution could prevent me from taking the ell”
Here we see shades of King’s speech, where Douglass is talking like a protester, a man who wants to understand his identity. Douglass goes on to learn from the children of the streets nearby and he learns how to read. Douglass was a determined man and he believed in justice and after talking to the children about freedom he had hope and faith:
“You will be free as soon as you are 21, but I am a slave for life. Have not I as good a right to be free as you have?”
Douglass and other slaves were denied education; they were prevented from learning to read and, if they learned, were forbidden books. The idea of it being illegal for a slave to read and the fact that if they were found reading they would be punished is astonishing. With Celie she can read but it is the way she is treated that is troubling and even though she can read and write it brings her no good until the end. King would protest for things such as this. Three other famous novels that deal with these aspects are ‘Brave new world’ by Aldous Huxley, ‘1984’ by George Orwell and ‘Farenheit’ 541 by Ray Bradbury. Also another black activist who wrote an autobiography account of his life was James Weldon Johnson, who like Douglass tried to set his views and show the hardships he went through.
949 Words (Including quotations)
With all three texts, the main underlying theme is identity of the individual. It is about realising who a man really is and seeing beneath the colour of their skin and looking into their character. The language along with the identity contemplates each other so as to form two opposites that attract. After looking at the different texts we learn and understand the harsh realities of racism, slavery, the bad treatment of women and the lack of understanding of identity. With King’s speech we learn about one way he attempts to combat this problem, by protesting and holding rallies. The language used is of a high status, by using metaphors and other important terms King shows that as an educated man he is equal to any other man and that they are all apart of one family. Celie in ‘The Color Purple’ is not educated and is confused as to why this is happening to her; the language is Black English and is the dialect of South America at that time. The language is graphic and touches the reader. Celie cannot combat what is happening to her and she confides in God to help her in any way he can. Finally with the extracts from Douglass’s autobiography we learn of the different ways he was treated, how he began to understand his identity and he began to learn, how he stumbled upon the fact that he was equal to any other man. The language used shows the situation he was in.
All 3 texts are about the identity of one or many individuals and they all are protesting in some way or another, the aspect of freedom is important in all 3 of them. The identity is a value which is not to be gained, for all men posses it, but it is a value which must be seen by one man looking into the character of another man. White or Black.
Total Word Count: 4600 approx
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