The emotion of hope is important because life is uncertain. Factors such as wealth, education and opportunity may play a role in dividing people into different social categories, but no amount of privilege or advantage can shield a person from disappointment, pain, loss or death. These are universal adversities for all humankind. The word hope can be defined in different ways. Many religious people think of hope as a virtue, along with faith and love. Survivors of trauma often credit hope as the inspiration that kept them going. A realists may say that hope is nothing more than wishful thinking. No matter how it is defined, whether it is a belief or a feeling, hope is the idea of something bigger than oneself. The application of hope can provide comfort, strength and encouragement. Eudora Welty’s “A Worn Path” is a story of one woman’s hopeful, determined journey. Overcoming every obstacle and distraction in her path, she perseveres in order to complete her objective. Similarly, Maya Angelou’s “Still I Rise” tells the story of strength and resilience during adversity. The poem is a celebration of the endurance and hope of the African-American race. While both of these narratives highlight the unfortunate American history of racism, the stories also relate the importance of hope and the impact it can have on one’s life. During times of adversity, the human spirit is strengthened and inspired by the emotion of hope.
When considering the importance of hope and its value to society, it is important to mention that without hope humankind would be lost. Optimism and determination have made a lasting impact on history. Hope has affected the past by fostering the resilience and fortitude required to fight injustices such as racism. The racial equality and civil rights movement of modern society are the direct result of the perseverance of hopeful ancestors who dreamed of a better life. In her poem, Maya Angelou offers a reference of the reprehensible behavior experienced by her ancestors when she says, “You may shoot me with your words / You may cut me with your eyes / You may kill me with your hatefulness” (lines 21-23). The figurative descriptions of hatred and violence in Angelou’s poem were the literal experiences of her ancestors. In the days before racial equality, the safety of black people was constantly jeopardized because society placed little value on them as human beings. The emotional damage to the psyche and self-esteem of the victims of racism was extensive for most. In considering the experiences of her forefathers, Angelou asks in “Still I Rise:”
Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops,
Weakened by my soulful cries. (13-16)
Despite the insurmountable obstacles before them, such as violence, danger and even death, the eternal hope to someday be considered equal to their white counterparts inspired black men and women continued to struggle to advance their cause no matter the...