Who am I? And what is my place in society? These are timeless, age-old questions that have been stumping mankind lifetimes over. I often find myself attempting to tackle such conundrums, only to give up once I feel as though I have come across a paradox and have only succeeded in developing a headache. Nonetheless, not too long after I find myself contemplating the same questions once again, much like the world has for centuries internally as well as externally through social interaction, study, or any of the infinite forms of media, most particularly literature. Beyond the constant headaches, throughout my seventeen years of life thus far, I have come to see that much like in literature in which the protagonist comes face to face with various stumbling blocks, I too have faced events that have shaped me into the person I am now and will someday become.
As a means of aiding in the understanding of the complexity that is Melvin Hines III, I draw examples from the works of others: an excerpt from the autobiography of Frederick Douglass entitled “Learning to Read and Write” and Paul Laurence Dunbar’s poem “We wear the mask.” In the work of Frederick Douglass his life is ridden with constant obstacles as he, as a young boy, tries his very best to become literate, to break the cycle of ‘keeping the enslaved, black man down.’ The institution known as slavery hangs over his African-American head while a ‘white-society’ restricts his hands and feet and his slave owners deprive him of the “valuable bread of knowledge” ( ). Within himself he struggles to cope with the education he progressively receives, discovering the despair and severity of the situation he is living in. He ironically feels cursed to learn the things he does as it only opens his eyes to the harsh reality befalling him and his people. Dunbar’s “We wear the mask” captures the turmoil residing amongst the African-American community during the time period in which country-wide freedom was granted. The community faces continual opposition despite what the word ‘freedom’ might mean. With laws, possibly the Jim Crow, another appearance of the ‘white-society’, and not to mention an inner-battle with self, happiness may not be the proper emotion to