African American Literature Final Paper Autosaved Revision

Submitted By hmuncher
Words: 3788
Pages: 16

Haley Muncher

Dr. Ndeh

African American Literature

December 1st, 2014

Common Tropes in African American Literature

African American literature is an extremely dense and rich form of literature that contains many types of similar tropes. These tropes can be seen throughout many of African American works of literature. A few that will be discussed thoroughly in this paper, that are majorly common in these types of works are: the idea of double consciousness, the question and search for identity, the Sankofa experience, the Great Migration, and lastly the return to the South. These tropes may seem very different but they all tie into the question of identity and the struggle that African Americans faced and still to this day face due to slavery. It is important to read works of African American literature in order to be able to understand the trials and tribulations that slavery brought upon this particular group of people. Reading African American literature ranging from spirituals and slave narratives, to works written during and after the Civil Rights Movement provides readers and scholars with a rare insight into the minds and lives of African Americans at that time. Much of African American literature is realistic in nature, meaning that it tends to be about their personal experiences, especially the later works; therefore, readers are able to experience firsthand the struggles that African American people faced on a daily basis. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Double-Consciousness:
Double-consciousness is a major theme that courses through many African American literature works. Double-consciousness was a term made up by W.E.B. Dubois and is defined in the focus of African American literature and the African American experience as “an individual whose identity is divided into several facets.” (Double-Consciousness). Dubois' uses the term double-consciousness in a way to characterize the issues of race and also as a way to put a name to the feelings that most African Americans felt at the time but had no other name for (Jr., 1992). This idea of double-consciousness comes through in almost any African American work of literature. Double-consciousness has a direct negative affect on identity of African American people. It is the exact reason why the African American people have a hard time understanding who they are, because they have unarguable ties to two totally separate cultures. Dubois explains this perfectly when he stated: “One ever feels his two-ness, -am American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strengths alone keeps it from being torn asunder...” (Dubois 3). What Dubois is saying is that having both identities to have to connect with and understand is a very hard task that African Americans have to deal with, maybe even the hardest. This idea of double consciousness is a mirror image of the strife that African Americans have been through. African Americans have the task of taking the two selves, the African and American, and combining this person into one. This forces Africans to lose a little of themselves, but also to gain a little of something equally good. This is why identity is questioned so much because this convergence is very hard to accomplish. African Americans are faced with the challenge of identifying themselves with not only their African home land and traditions but also with their American upbringing (Ndi and Ndeh 2013). This ultimate challenge is highlighted in Dubois' novel “The Souls of Black Folks” in which he shows that there is not one but two souls that each African American has inside of him. This not only is true to African Americans but is true to all post-colonial indigenous people whose lives were negatively impacted by contact with Europeans. Like African Americans, these natives search for