Discrimination in Literature
In poems by Dunbar and Cullen and a novel by Shelly, we see various methods and applications of discrimination. Specifically, in “Theology”, the speaker is being discriminated against by his neighbors. In “Tableau”, Cullen demonstrates racial discrimination. In the first half of Frankenstein, The Monster is discriminated against based on his ghastly appearance.
In Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem “Theology”, the speaker is being discriminated against by his neighbors. The poem indicates that the speaker was being discriminated against by his neighbors through his belief in heaven and hell. Only peoples who commit acts of outrageous manner deserve to rot in hell and the speaker believes that is right were his neighbors belong. “There is a hell, I’m quite sure; for pray, if there were not, where would my neighbors go?” (Dunbar, 4-6). The time period in which the poem was written, the 1890’s, was explicably known for lynchings based on race. The speaker’s neighbors must have committed acts of bigotry towards the speaker or his friends and family for the speaker to condemn them to hell.
Cullen’s poem, “Tableau” shows discrimination based on race. In the poem, two young kids, one boy and one girl, walked arm in arm in the light of day. However, since the boy was black and the girl was white, the townspeople had a hard time accepting their relationship. Both the black and white townspeople were described as “indignant that these two should dare in unison to walk” (Cullen, 7-8). According to the New Oxford American Dictionary, indignant is defined as showing anger or annoyance at what is perceived as unfair treatment. I interpret the poem as the “fair” towns folk are upset that the white girl is stooping down to the level of a colored person, and the “dark folk” are upset that the black boy has accepted the hand of a white girl after all the oppression they have endured from their white counterparts.
In Frankenstein, a novel by Mary Shelly, The Monster is widely shunned for his grotesque appearance despite his inherently gentle persona. The Monster was abandoned by his master, Victor Frankenstein, after Victor lays eyes on him. Victor was disgusted by The Monster’s appearance and immediately discriminates and shuns the creature away. Enraged from his rejection, The Monster escapes into the town of Ingolstadt where he attempts to integrate himself into society. His goal of integration however, was unsuccessful due to The Monster’s appearance. The townspeople were unable to accept him and instead discriminated against him due to his differing physical appearance. Victor had hoped the creature would represent his discoveries of the magical mystery of the creation of life; however, the creature represents a fear of the unknown and a fear of the unfamiliar.
At my service-learning site, Tunbridge Public Charter School, I noticed myself having discriminatory thoughts when I first started to volunteer. I have grown up in very privileged areas across the East Coast. There are vast differences between my first-grade class and the first-grade class in which I am volunteering. I was completing tasks with a higher academic rigor, and I noticed myself mentally discriminating against the York road community for this differentiation. However, I caught myself thinking this and remembered that I attended a small, private lower school in an affluent area with copious funds to pay for the best teachers and resources to enable us to succeed to the best of our abilities. While Tunbridge is a charter school, which provides more funding than a public school, they cannot afford the same amenities and luxuries that I am accustomed to. However, that is reason to discriminate against an area or the group of students that attend this school. The students in my classroom are just as hard-working and determined as I was. While our skin color may differ, our spirit and vigor are the same. Passing judgment and discriminating is inherent in human nature, however, we can change this outlook and choose to not let this impact our thoughts or behavior toward others.