The Jamaican Fragment is a story about a man, who during his regular walk to and from work encounters an irregularity he views as an act of inferiority. We can assume that the Jamaican Fragment is a real life experience, rather than a piece of fiction due to first person writing style. In the first paragraph the author uses visual imagery by describing the colors of the houses as well as the bungalow style house, which presents as the setting. We can start to conclude that the author is ethnic himself or very familiar with differentiating ethnic characteristics.
In psychology we learn that the race we are born of, makes us better able to distinguish features and characteristics amoung our own culture. People often struggle distinguishing key characteristics in other races, ethnicities, and cultures. So when Hendricks refers to the one little boy as a “little Jamaican”, he is presenting us with the idea that he is ethnic. It is important to take notice of the fact that Hendricks may be of Jamaican descent as in the next line in the above mentioned sentence he calls the little boy a “strong Jamaican” and this sets the tone for the writer’s stance.
Hendrick outlines his passion for his race as a “strong” race as opposed to weak and inferior. The definition of prejudice according to the Merriam Webster dictionary is as follows “a (1): preconceived judgment or opinion (2): an adverse opinion or leaning formed without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge . ” Prejudice is a very controversial topic in our society that often incites anger and defensiveness in people. Hendricks essay Jamaican Fragment is a well written personal descriptive essay that addresses the idea of prejudice employing irony and humour so that the reader remains open-minded.
Hendricks’ simple, relaxed style helps assist the reader through the story without preconceived notions or prejudices towards other ethnicities. There are several figures of speech used to entice the reader and the reflective mood of the essay allows us to reflect on our own thoughts and hopefully come to the same conclusions around prejudice. Hendricks’ style of the essay is very important in terms of what he wants the reader to experience and how he wants them to experience the story. Words that I would use to describe the tone would be casual, curious and ironic.
The author uses everyday language to create the casual tone such as “The other little fellow was smaller, but also sturdy – he was white, with hazel eyes and light-brown hair. ” (362) This casual tone permits everyone to read this essay; there is no prejudice against an educated or uneducated audience. The sentence structure used is also simple and casual. “For a whole day I puzzled over this problem. ”(363) This excerpt from Jamaican Fragment is an excellent example of the curious tone that utilizes in this essay.
He is taking the reader on a journey of self-discovery. The reader is also curious as to the game the children play, could it really be a game of inferiority? There is also a strong sense of irony throughout the entire essay, it is my belief that the author uses an ironic tone to further his argument around prejudice enable the reader to learn a moral lesson. “The exercise is good for me and now and then I learn something from a little incident”(362), is an example of Hendricks’ using foreshadowing as a literary technique.
We know that he is going to learn something and we know by the end of the essay that “little” is very much an understatement. “How silly grown-ups we are, how clever we are, how wonderfully able we are to impute deep motives to childish actions! How suspicious we are when have been warped by prejudice! “(364) This illustrates the ignorance that Hendricks employs and the relationship between ignorance and prejudice. He also uses exclamation marks to emphasize the enormity of his misjudgment.
Syncrisis is a figure of speech in which opposite things or persons are compared. (the free dictionary). Hendricks’ uses syncrisis throughout the essay “young vs old” and black vs white”, this technique is used repetitively because Hendricks has a us vs them defence. He believes that he has been wronged by judgement and “them”. “Was there really some difference between a white man and a black man? Something that made the white superior. ”(363) This is a good example of the author using a literary device called pathos .
Hendricks wants to incite passion into the reader, he feels incredibly passionate about his feelings around prejudice. “Were we as a race really inferior? So inferior that even in our infancy we realized our deficiencies, and accepted a position as the white man’s servant? ” (363) The author is asserting his own point of view here, wresting with their world perspective on injustice. There’s a sense that the author feels inferior as a black person due to the last sentence, even if he doesn’t want to feel that that way, perhaps because of his light tone?
In the last paragraph Hendricks reveals the truth around the game to a white man standing on his porch, he soon discovers that the man is the father of both boys and a partner in an interracial marriage. Obviously some humor here, the author makes assumptions (of course which is one of the toxic elements in racism, prejudice, stereotypes, and injustice) about another person’s point of view (which is what he did with the boys) and although he has good intentions, he is again surprised because the thought of a racially mixed family (the next step toward an egalitarian and tolerant society) had not crossed his mind.
Irony strikes again. Assumptions and ignorance is what encourages prejudice and although this is what he is passionate against he becomes the bearer of such conclusions. Through Hendricks’ self-discovery around the “game” we are able to see how quickly people are apt to jump to conclusions feeding prejudice. What is social equality and how does this change come about? Education is the key to this problem and Hendricks urges the reader to become educated and learn a very important moral lesson.
Courtney from Study Moose
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