Dealing with Adversity Telicia Hood English 125 Brendan Praniewicz 9/25/2011 Dealing with Adversity In the mid-1960’s, going from a girl to a woman was hard, but if you were black and going through, it was much harder. In the poem “What it’s like to be a black girl” Smith (1991) depicts this transition as very challenging. In comparison, “The Welcome Table” by Alice Walker (1970) depicts life through the eyes of a black woman. This paper discusses the content, form, and style of each poem. The content within the two are very much similar.
They have a lot in common when it comes to the topic of race. Although their style is different, the form of the two is close related. However, this is a paper that analyzes the two literary works from the course reading which share a common theme. The dominant theme present is racism. The theme here is about black woman who long to escape and be free but cannot have that freedom because of the society they live in. Have you ever wondered how woman felt in the mid-1960? These among others are just some answered in Walker (1970) and Smith’s (1991) work.
With so much negativity around it was hard for black woman to figure out their place in the world. They were left trying to be what everyone around them wanted them to be. Thankfully, no longer are churches or anywhere else divided into black and white, but to all is welcomed at God’s table. Content: “What it’s like to be a black girl (for those of you who aren’t)” Racism is based on fear. Fear of the known and fear of the unknown. It can greatly describe the mid-1960’s when black woman were not welcomed anywhere.
The year 1960 can also describe the setting in this poem. During this period Smith (1991) was a young black girl, 9 years of age trying to come to terms with her own nationality, she is also the main character in the poem. The plot of the story is that like most girls Smiths age, she wanted to belong. “What it’s like to be a black girl” is Smith’s own mixed emotions about growing up in America. America, at the time wanted to be accepted but found it integrated, and none the less did Smith (1991) feel the same. In this poem she used imagery to convey her esire to be like the accepted (white) instead of black especially when she says, “it’s like dropping food coloring into your eyes”, and “popping a bleached mop head over the kinks of your hair” (Clugston, 2011, chap. 12. 2). What she meant is that she wanted to be like the normal, pretty, blue eyed, blonde haired white girls. Ultimately, the poem takes the reader inside the mind of a young girl struggling to come to terms with her racial uncertainty. As heard and some have even experienced, there was a time when blacks were not accepted.
When a person feels unaccepted it makes everyday living much harder. In the 1960s there was a lot of racism. One of the biggest issues was being blocked from jobs, Gerald Talbot (2011) said. Blacks were denied many jobs even if they were qualified (Washuk, 2011). Black women could only get hired as maids, cooks, or sitters. The whites did not believe in black nurses, doctors, lawyers or firemen. Although civil rights movement was in progress, blacks were still limited in many ways. Style: As you read this poem, you will see that the point of view is obvious. Smith (1991) tells the story in first person.
She is literally depicting her personal experience growing up in the mid-1960s. The first sentence start out “first of all” (Clugston, 2011, chap12. 2) allows you to see the first person point of view. Smith’s mood is quite that of an uproar, she shows much anger throughout the poem. She uses very strong words such as “fuck” to further express that anger. With such mood, majority of her tone is very sarcastic. But at the same time is like she is begging for change, pleading to be accepted, and longing for understanding. Form: “What it’s like to be a black girl” is in the form of slam (Gantz, 2011).
This actual form is not found in the text but can be researched in many places. Poetry slam is a competition at which poets read or recite original work. The work is then judged on a numeric scale by previously selected members of the audience. Poetry slam is the cadence that sculpts prose into poetic form, the attitude that keeps audience at the edge of their seats (Gantz, 2011). In comparison, “The Welcome Table” (Clugston, 2011) shares the same theme, but is different in many ways. Have you ever felt like an outcast? Or lonely and just wanted someone, anyone to talk to?
Have you ever been judged and mistreated because of the color of your skin? The author of this poem depicts life through the eyes of a black woman, who felt lonely and had been mistreated. Being mistreated is never a good feeling. Everyone is entitled to be treated with respect. As the Golden Rule states, treat others as you wish to be treated. The Welcome Table can distinctly refer to a time when blacks were not welcome anywhere, much like the slavery days, when segregation existed. Blacks and whites were separated with signs saying, Coloreds here or Whites only.
Black people were not allowed in white people churches, stores or many other places. The plot in this poem is much different than Smiths plot. Unlike Smith the black lady in Welcome Table is actually at terms with her own nationality and does not wont to change who she is. But on other hands, the similarity here is that both the poems deal with a black person longing to be accepted by others. The old lady in this poem deals with a degree of discrimination due to the color of her skin. Although both poems are about a black person, the significant difference in the two is their age.
As the “Welcome Table” starts, it gives a description of the old lady; she is nearly blind, with a lean build and a grayish tone to her skin. She wears a mildewed black dress with missing buttons and a grease-stained head rag covering her pigtails. She has blue-brown eyes, is ashen in appearance and very wrinkled; the author makes clear that she doesn’t have the finer things. However, this does not stop her from dressing the best of her ability and proceeding to go church. Unlike “What it’s like to be a Black Girl” this poem has a distinct setting, which happens to be the church she arrives at.
When she gets to the church, she notices it’s a church belonging to the whites. As they notice her, they start starring and whispering things unfit to be heard (Clugston, 2011). She sees and hears them but is not concerned, as she sings her hymn she continues into the church. The white people are very shocked to see her go in and even sit in their church, for her appearance reminds them of black workers such as maids and cooks. She appeared to them as foreshadow of what is to come-black people invading the one place that is still considered the white persons sanctuary, their church.
This fear leads to them kicking her out of the church. The old lady then starts to walk down the highway still singing her song and runs into Jesus. Her mood instantly changes as she walks and talks with him, telling him about how she had been treated. The highway is a distinctive place to remember in this poem, because she meets Jesus there and it is also where she is later found dead. Style: The point of view in this poem is told in third person, which tends to switch throughout the story. It switches from the people within the story.
The beginning is told in a white person point of view as they see the lady go into the church. It then switches to the usher, who tells the lady to leave. It proceeds back to a white person point of view who then feels threatened. Last it switches back to the old lady until she dies. The constant changing of point of view is useful in that it portrays fear, thought and feelings of almost everyone. The story is also told third person omniscient, which means that the story is being told by someone who is not a character, but knows the feelings and thoughts of the character (Clugston, 2011).
Unlike the first poem discussed, this poem includes many different moods. At the beginning as the old lady sings the mood is set at despair, and very much agony. While she is in the church she tends to be disturbed by the white people wanting her to leave as they are in fear. The white people are scared because they believe that if they allow her to stay that that would only open the door for more blacks to come. At the end the old lady mood changes to excitement, she is also relieved as she vents to God about how people have treated her.
The tone in “Welcome Table” is that of a mellow, somber, saddened person whereas in “What it’s like to be a black girl” is that of an angry person. You can tell much of this by the hymn that starts off the poem. Form: There are major a major difference in the two poems, as stated earlier “What it’s Like to be a Black Girl” is poetry slam, whereas the form of this poem can be listed as a few different ones. The song at the beginning makes the entire poem fit the description of being a ballad. The fact that there is a death within this poem it could also be described as an elegy.
The entire poems itself can also be described as a dramatic dialogue, as it provides the audience with a particular feeling. “The Welcome Table”, “What it’s like to be a black girl” and the content provided shows that being black were a hard concept in the 1960s. Many suffered unfairness, injustice and no respect based on the color of their skin. This act caused many to dislike and even question their own identity. “What it’s like to be a Black Girl” showed the anger in a black, 9 year old girl who longed to be accepted. And “The Welcome Table” shows the hurt in a much older lady from not being accepted.
The “Welcome Table” provided a clear picture, while “What it’s like to be a black girl” provided the feelings associated with being black and going through life. Ultimately, in the 1960’s if you were white you had an easy life, according to the blacks, going from a girl to a woman and even in adulthood life was much harder for them. References Clugston, W. 2011. Journey into Literature. Retrieved from content. ashford. edu Gantz, J. 2011. Boston Globe. Boston. Massachussets. pg. G6. Retrieved from ebscohost. com Washuk, B. 2011. Mcclatchy-Tribune Business News. Washington. Retrieved from ebscost. com