Professor Juniper Ellis
16 October 2013
Why Can’t We All Be Equal?
In the works written by Paul Lawrence Dunbar, Countee Cullen, and Mary Shelley have one common theme, inequality. In Dunbar’s “Theology,” the speaker is a slave and is facing discrimination by slave owners. In Cullen’s “Tableau,” the speaker is a bystander who is observing two boys, one white and one black, walking together. During the time this poem was written, white were seen as inferior to blacks. In Shelley’s Frankenstein, a man named Victor Frankenstein attempts to create the ideal human being, but instead, creates a monster.
In Paul Lawrence Dunbar’s “Theology,” the speaker, who is a slave, talks about how he believes there is a heaven and a hell. “If there were not, where would my neighbors go?” (lines 5-6). The neighbors represent the slave owners. The speaker is living in the south because slavery wasn’t legal in the north. The speaker implies that slave owners deserve to go to hell. It is clear that inequality played a huge factor in the south during this era.
In Countee Cullen’s “Tableau,” the speaker sees a black boy and a white boy walking together. “Indignant that these two should dare in unison to walk.” (lines 7-8). This poem was written in 1925 during a time of segregation and discrimination. Whites were seen as superior to blacks. Blacks didn’t have the same rights as whites. Although this was written during a time of inequality, these two boys ignored society and walked arm and arm, not caring about what anyone had to say.
In Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Victor Frankenstein is fascinated with the human body. He decides to create a human being out of many different objects in an attempt to create the ideal human. He becomes frightened of the monster he has created and soon falls ill. Victor receives a letter from his father telling him that his youngest brother has been murdered. He goes to Geneva, where he is from, but is locked out of the gates. He spots the monster in the woods and speculates that he killed his brother. Justine, the family servant, is accused of killing Victor’s brother and is later executed. Victor finally finds the monster and the monster tells him about his experiences while trying to find shelter. Upon his search, the monster passed by many people who were afraid of him and often ran away. He realizes that he is nothing like a human, and feels unequal. It is revealed that the monster does have a heart. He discovers that his neighbors seem very unhappy. He believes it is because he has been stealing their food. The monster stops stealing their food and gathers up wood from the woods and leaves it at their door. No matter how nice the monster is to humans, he will still never be seen as equal, always as inferior.
I attended a speech in McGuire on October 3rd. The speech was called “Messina.” There were many speakers, but Father O’Malley spoke for the majority of the speech. Father O’Malley mentioned that Jesuit is about educating the whole person. Jesuit education allows students to escape from the comfort zone of early education. We were born for more than just ourselves. He also believes that we are born to better the world and others in it. The significance of Messina is for wider church and western culture. Before Messina there was no such thing as a church related school. This speech’s theme was opposite of the themes of the works I read. The Messina speech was about equality and educating the whole body.
In the works, “Theology,” “Tableau,” and Frankenstein, an event/events take place in each work that reveal inequality. Characters in both “Theology,” “Tableau,” and Frankenstein all face discrimination. Equality was discussed throughout the “Messina” speech, opposite of what the works revealed.