Dealing with Differences
In works of literature by Dunbar, Cullen and Shelley and also in the Messina Program, we see a theme of people dealing with differences. In each work of literature, a different aspect of this theme is discussed whether it be in religion, race, or even species. In some cases the characters struggle with these differences while in others, they embrace it and take it in stride. “Theology” by Paul Lawrence Dunbar, “Tableau” by Countee Cullen, Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, and the Messina Program each give us a different outlook, whether it is positive or negative, on this idea of dealing with people who are different.
In “Theology” by Paul Lawrence Dunbar, the topic of religion is brought up. The poem itself is very brief but makes a very clear point. The speaker’s main point is that his neighbors will go to hell. He makes this point towards the end of the poem saying, “[t]here is a hell, I’m quite as sure; for pray, [i]f there were not, where would my neighbors go”. This statement comes across as somewhat bold and shows his close-mindedness. He seems to think that for some reason he is going to heaven, while everyone else around him is going to hell. His inability to accept whatever makes these people different and condemning them to hell for it shows that he struggles to deal with people that are different from him.
“Tableau” by Countee Cullen actually shows both extremes of people being open to differences. In the poem a black boy and a white boy walk arm-in-arm across the street together. On one side, there are the bystanders who watch from inside and judge the two boys. In lines 5-6 the speaker says, “[f]rom lowered blinds the dark folk stare, and here the fair folk talk, indignant that these two should dare in unison to walk”. These people that he is talking about live in a segregated society where black and white don’t mix. Seeing these two kids go against that idea upsets them and they judge them for it. On the other side, there are the two kids who are walking across the street. They are oblivious to each other’s differences and pay no attention to what they are doing or whom they are upsetting.
In Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, Victor Frankenstein struggles to come to terms with the creature that he has created. It was his life’s goal to create life and once he made it, he abandoned it. On page 35 of Shelley’s novel the narrator describes the monster awakening him at night saying, “He held up the curtain of my bed; and his eyes, if eyes they may be called, were fixed on me. His jaws opened, and he muttered some inarticulate sounds, while a grin wrinkled his cheeks” (Shelley 35). Later on page 36 the narrator says, “I had gazed on him while unfinished; he was ugly then; but when those muscles and joints were rendered capable of motion, it became such a thing such as even Dante could not have conceived” (Shelley 36). Frankenstein clearly is disgusted with the monster he created. The monster is so different from him physically that he fears it and flees from it without knowing if it was good or bad. Victor Frankenstein fears the monster because it is different.
Loyola Maryland offers to its first year students the chance to participate in the Messina Program. The point of this program is to help push students out of their comfort zones. One of the main goals of Jesuit higher education is to introduce new ideas, concepts, and ways of thinking to its students that they otherwise may not have experienced. This goal coincides with the theme in the literary works of dealing with differences. The Messina Program introduces its students to new things in hopes that they will become accepting of things that are different. It is by being open to different things that we can learn and grow as individuals.
Sometimes it is hard to be accepting of and open to new things. It is very easy to just follow the flow of society and stay within our own boundaries. In my opinion, it is extremely important to fight being judgmental and close-minded. We are part of a global community of nearly seven billion people so we are bound to encounter new and different things in life. If we close ourselves off to foreign things, we are depriving ourselves of so much and limiting our opportunity to learn and grow.