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Re Interrogating The Theme Of ‘Identity’ In Afro American Literature

4089 words - 17 pages

Literature has been a powerful instrument for social change. It documents the historical attempts that people have made to reach their rightful place in destiny in the face of oppression and discrimination at different levels. The fight against forces of oppression such as race, class and gender has been a never ending process despite the loud claims of the so-called establishment of equality and justice. The greatness of man in all our history is evaluated in terms of his resoluteness and courage to question the damaging forces which perpetuate and sponsor discrimination in one form or the other. Silence is guilt where fearless speech is a basic courage. Be it Negro in the west or Dalit in ...view middle of the document...

Invariably, many writers of Afro-American origin tend to focus on a gamut of issues which include the issue of slavery, segregation, racism and oppression, the impact of double consciousness, the influence of musical tradition and the goal towards a new literature All the above mentioned concepts are intricately linked to the theme of ‘freedom’ and ‘self-expression’.

'Freedom’ is an essentially contested concept for which thousands have fought and millions have been sacrificed. It has been a subject of intense debate engaging academic minds for generations. It attracts numerous different interpretations by different philosophies and schools of thought. The love of freedom, the desire to possess unrestricted scope to live and grow, is a basic, legitimate ever-present hunger of human heart. The idea of freedom is one that each epoch reshapes in its own liking. The question of freedom, in general sense, deals with the description of philosophical, judicial, political, economic and societal system in which 'freedom' displays itself rapidly and differently. It implies that there will always be understandably distinct and disputed versions of freedom that are inconsistent with each other. There is no single, universal and objectively 'correct' meaning of freedom expressed anywhere in the annals of human history. It is often perceived to be a terrain of conflict. Afro-American writings illustrate this conflict in multiple ways.
Toni Morrison, one of the representative writers of Afro-American origin, says that “there is no denial of the truth that the spirit of pursuit of liberty in an individual is often understood as self-realization or self-determination". This pursuit is towards seeking positive freedom. The concept of positive freedom implies an individual's right to pursue happiness to such an extent that a person thinks the best. This right involves guarantees that ensure that no person is denied of opportunities on the basis of race, gender, ethnicity, or creed. Such guarantees are political in origin and presume the existence of another guarantee: the right to participate in political decisions that shape the structure of opportunities in any civilized society. Positive freedom lies in individual's efforts to do whatever an individual deems fit in order to reach his/her rightful place in destiny. The sense of determinism, determination, direction, discipline and dignity are the hallmarks of positive freedom. Negative freedom implies an individual's liberation from a confinement. This confinement may be a 'shackle' or 'prison' or 'negativism' or 'inferiority complex' which might be internal or external or a mix of both. Freedom from these confinements is perceived to be negative freedom. In other words, 'getting liberated' from the restrictions which are external such as social, political, economic and any other restrictions.
Afro-American writing is historically committed to raise some uncomfortable questions and through which it...

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