Literary Utopia Essay

Submitted By mmodi09
Words: 942
Pages: 4

Utopian Literature: Imperium in Imperio Throughout history, white men and women generally wrote literary utopias. These authors paid very little attention to other races, focusing on class and gender issues within the white race. However, over time new African-American authors came into the picture with their version of literary utopias. These African-American authors aimed to tackle the racial issues they were going through within their writings by sometimes proposing racist solutions. Over the course of my life I have had the opportunity to read quite a few novels novel that are considered literary utopias, however, the one novel that stands out most to me is Sutton E. Griggs’, Imperium In Imperio. This novel is significant for the simple fact that it examines and gives insight not only into racial issues during the late 1800’s and early 1900’s but it also helps us to understand the racial issues occurring in today’s society as well. This novel was very impacting and interesting to me because it portrays a society in which African Americans are oppressed by the white man and are not given the same rights that were supposed to be given to them by the constitution. This imperfect world is seen through the eyes of the two main characters in the story who are torn between two factions. Bernard Belgrave is a very wealthy mulatto man, and Belton Piedmont is a poor dark skinned man. Nevertheless, both of these young men are very intelligent and have a gift for public speaking. Throughout the novel, Belton constantly has to deal with adversity and unfair treatment because of his dark black skin. Early in the novel it is easy to see that Bernard becomes a favorite of his brutal teacher, Mr. Leonard, while Belton is humiliated and given unfair treatment because his skin is darker than Bernard’s. This is just one example of the unfair treatment Belton receives out of many. However, instead of this discrimination tearing Belton apart, it drove Belton to achieve his life goals and be perfect in all aspects of his life. Bernard on the other hand was always given special treatment and did not have to go through all of the hardships that Belton went through.
Towards the end of the novel, Belton becomes a conservative assimilationist who wishes to integrate both races for the benefit of society. However, Bernard becomes a militant nationalist who wants to destroy the white race and have an all black government and society, which we could consider his version of a utopia. After Mr. King, editor of the Richmond Daily Temps, says, “Mr. Piedmont, this will carry you through college. I have only one favor to ask you. In all of your dealings with my people recognize the fact that there are two widely separate classes of us, and that there is a good side to the character of the worst class. Always seek for and appeal to that side of their nature” (Griggs 28), Belton dedicates himself to educating the white people on the African-American race so that he can bring them together and they can live in peace.
However, Bernard’s aggressive and militant attitude on creating the perfect society has manifested over time due to the way he feels towards the white man for making his parents marriage seem shameful. Bernard’s father says to him, “Now, my son, go forth; labor hard and climb high. Scale the high wall of prejudice. Make it possible, dear boy, for me to owe you ere I pass out of life. Let your mother have the veil of slander torn from her pure ere she closes her eyes on earth forever”…