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Analysis of “The Ethics of Living Jim Crow”

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Analysis of “The Ethics of Living Jim Crow”:

In “The Ethics of Living Jim Crow: An Autobiographical Sketch” Richard Wright explains the how the oppression and violence of the whites are what lead to a shift in morals in the black community. Due to this constant fear of death the blacks are under, they become more and more accustomed to this abusive treatment. Wright conveys this change in morals through the use of a series of vignettes, mostly consisting of narration of events that illustrate the oppression and violence by whites. This narration throughout his essay not only conveys to society that these encounters were numerous and happened quite often, but also to demonstrate the effects of these encounters. The vignettes he uses pair these stories chronologically and also put his analysis of each story in the same section, this creates coherence through the pairing of similar ideas in a logical fashion.

Wright’s use of narration paired with vignettes is what really makes this essay cohere and get its point across to the reader. By itself the narration throughout this essay I a very important component, Wright uses it to demonstrate and emphasize the extent of the violence towards blacks. This narration also shows how the morals of Wright and the black community change over the years, to being much more accepting of blatant hatred, racism, and violence directed toward them, something that we as humans see as innately wrong. However, the narration alone would not be so effective, if each of these stories wasn’t grouped into a vignette. This is true for two reasons, the first being that it allows the reader to see a clear divider between one concept supported by a story and Wright’s analysis of the story and his feelings about the story. The second purpose of these vignettes is to simply provide more structure to the essay, because without this division, the essay would be much more difficult to break down into main ideas or sections.

Wright creates coherence through the use of chronologically presenting his vignettes in a chronological order, allowing for the reader to see the changes that are occurring not only in Wright, but in all the people around him. While this may be a common convention, without it the essay would be much harder to understand, the reader would have no reference as to when each event happened, leaving all of the instances Wright presents to stand alone. This chronology not only shows how the violence was a constant theme throughout his Jim Crow life, but it also ties together his major points, making his essay much stronger. Wright also uses his own form of analysis paired with each of his stories, to allow for an inside view as to his reaction, and his feelings, this also helps the reader see the change in morals due to the way he and other people are treated. Coherence is caused through the pairing of similar ideas in a logical, and easy to understand fashion. The combination of Wright’s use of vignettes to pair his ideas and order them into a chronological order, and narration to deliver the message that blacks were forced into the role of accepting abusive behavior directed towards them are what make this essay cohere so well. Because of the way Wright organizes his essay, and presents his arguments the reader is better able to understand exactly what that message is, this is what make his essay so effective in presenting his argument.

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