Since African American literature started back in the 18th century, the majority of these writings mainly focused on racism, ethnicity, and the struggle of African-American people. Nadine Gordimer and Patricia Smith are but two contributors to this area of literature. In my paper I will compare and contrast the short story by Nadine Gordimer, “Country Lovers”, and the poem, “What It’s Like Being a Black Girl”, written by Patricia Smith.
In both pieces of literature, the focus is put on the racial background and ethnicities, considering that the main characters or protagonists are black women, dealing with some degree of discrimination because of the color of their skin. It is common knowledge that racism has been a major issue which has tainted society, and the African-American people, particularly females have been dealing with the effects of racism, and have experienced the effects of discrimination and racism. (Clugston, 2010).
In the short story “Country Lovers”, a forbidden love between a black girl named Thebedi and a white male named Paulus, is depicted. In the story, two main characters are brought together since early childhood, spending much of the childhood days with each other. As they grow up, they became even closer, eventually falling in love. They soon realize that the racial politics of the time would not allow them to maintain their relationship simply because, Paulus, being the son of a white farm owner and Thebedi, the daughter of a black farm workers, would be unable to show or share their love publicly.
I found that there were many dramatic effect throughout this entire story. For example, when we read about the part were Paulus is going way to school, “This usefully coincides with the age of twelve or thirteen; so that by the time early adolescence is reached, the black children are making along with the bodily changes common to all, an easy transition to adult forms of address, beginning to call the old playmates missus and baasie little master. ” (Clugston 2010).
When Paulus watches Thebedi wading in the water, is the part of the story where I interpreted the loss of innocence and the description of a forbidden love. “The schoolgirls he went swimming with at dams and pools I may bring farms were bikinis but the site of their dazzling bellies and thighs in the sunlight had never made him feel what he felt now when the girl came up to the bank and sat beside him, two drops of water beading offer dark legs the only points of light in the earth -smelling deep shade.
They were not afraid of one another, they had known one another always; he did with her what he had done that time in the store room at the wedding, and this time it was so lovely, so lovely, he was surprised… And she was surprised by it too – he could see her dark face that was part of the shade, with her big dark eyes, shiny and soft water, watching him attentively: as she had when they used a huddle over their teams of mud oxen, as she had when he told her about attention weekends at school. “(Clugston, 2010). It is towards the end of the short story where you realize the racism.
It begins when Paulus arrived back home from college over the holidays, and finds out that Thebedi had given birth to a child. When he decides to go and see Thebedi and the child, he said, “You haven’t been near the house with it? ” (Clugston, 2010). His reaction alone reiterated the fact that such a thing would not be tolerated in his community. As the story continues, Paulus returned to the head later on: it states, “She thought she heard small grunts from the hut, the kind of insufficient grunt that indicates a full stomach, a deep sleep.
After a time, long or short she did not know, he came out and walked away with plodding stride (his father’s gait) out of sight, towards his father’s house” (Clugston 2010). For me as a reader, it became apparent that Paulus actually killed the child. After analyzing that particular part of the story it became evident that Paulus was afraid the relationship between him and Thebedi would become common knowledge, so in murdering the child, it would serve as a cover-up as if nothing happened between two of them. In the ending of the story, the police assumed the baby’s body and charged Paulus with murder.
During the trial, the story states that Thebedi took the stand. “She cried hysterically in the witness box, saying yes, yes (the gilt hoop earrings swung in her years), she saw the accused pouring liquid into the baby’s mouth. She said he had threatened to shoot her if she told anyone” (Clugston 2010). A year later, when she returned to the courthouse, she tells the court that, “she said that she had not seen what the white man did in the house” (Clugston, 2010). Because she altered her testimony, “The verdict on the accused was “not guilty” (Clugston, 2010).
In the poem “What It’s Like to Be a Black Girl” seems to depict a very similar theme. In the poem, Patricia Smith tends to use rigid and strong words in order to show the seriousness of the topic she is writing about. From the very beginning of her poem, “First of all,” I sense of how the story is going to be told and is laid out for the reader. It presents the audience with a picture of a young black girl transitioning into black womanhood, a place where being a black girl as well as being a black woman is often not a welcome thing.
To help the reader understand the thoughts that run through the mind of this puberty stricken young girl, she writes,” Its being 9 years old and feeling like you’re not finished, like your edges are wild, like there’s something, everything, wrong” (Smith, 4) This particular poem, in my opinion, is how racism and discrimination, both of race and gender, affects this young girl as she is transitioning from a young black girl, into a young black woman, while trying to accept all the changes that are happening to her.
In the line, “It’s popping a bleached white mop head over the kinks of your hair and primping in front of mirrors that deny your reflection. ” describes how this young girl wishes to look like other girls in order to be accepted in society. I found several tones in this poem that included not only pain and suffering, but courage is well. The poem discusses this young lady’s loss of innocence as a direct result of being raped.
In the line, “It’s dropping food coloring in your eyes to make them turn blue and suffering the burn in silence,” in my opinion is the showing of this young girl’s pain of being raped by a white person. Since the color blue plays a significant role in this line, it shows not only this suffering, but the despondency this young black girl is experiencing. In both the poem and a short story, the main characters have been negatively affected by the discrimination of a society in which the color of their skin is not accepted.
Both of the female characters lost their innocence, the only difference being, that Thebedi lost her virginity under the mask of the forbidden love, and the young girl in the poem lost her virginity is a direct cause of her rape. The sufferings of both characters is basically the same because the color of their skin and nothing else. The gender plays a very important role, but only after the race they belong to, as well as the alarming situation of the issue is accurately brought into the light and both of these literature works. It clearly indicates the suffering in the pain both these women experience. Fluehr-Lobban, 2010).
The mindset of a common young black girl is accurately presented in the poem “What It’s Like to Be a Black Girl”, and shows the effects that the society leaves on the mind of young black girls who wish to have the appearance like white girls simply because white girls are accepted in the society and the black are usually misused, refused, and disrespected. (Clugston, 2010) Both the story as well as the poem distinguish ethnicity and radical backgrounds, as well as explaining how women experienced cruelty for white racists.
I found limited separation between race and gender issues within both authors work simply because they elaborated the fact that they could not, and would not be on the same side with sexists or races. While reading Patricia Smith poem, it gave me the impression she was demonstrating her anger to the fact that white patriarchy confines and limits black women. Black females have been tormented by discrimination racism, and ethical and racial discrimination, as characterized in both the poem and short story can be affirmed as a depiction a reflection of racism and its effects on society. Dovidio, & Gaertner, 1996).
In conclusion, I truly feel that both authors share the same sentiments. First and foremost, both of their main focus was on the role of the black female. Not only did the Explorer the victimization of the black woman, but also brought to light their emotional struggles as well as her experiences. I also feel that both authors were the obstacles of racism and feminists’ society that same time expressed that defeat does not mean giving up, but offers the opportunity to conquer negativity in life.
Courtney from Study Moose
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