The Authorial Voice Essay

1240 words - 5 pages

Writing from the soul about one’s own life experiences can take on a much different feeling than any other style of writing. There is an intrinsic, gut-churning feel of risk within the process of telling the truth. A risk that gives a certain adrenaline rush, all while allowing one to reflect. The adventure of sharing ones own story can feel scary and relieving, both chaining and freeing. Harriet Jacobs and John Edgar Wideman undergo this while telling their stories, Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl (Jacobs) and Our Time (Wideman). Each author is self-conscious throughout their stories. Both authors speak about a minority in their stories; Jacobs speaks of the female slave and Wideman speaks of the African-American gangster. Because they tell the story of a minority to a majority, they can't afford to be misunderstood. They express their point through analysis, but also appeal to the hearts and minds of their audience. Through analysis and rhetorical techniques, which put you in Jacobs’ and Wideman’s shoes, both authors inform the reader of what their lives were like, all while overcoming their individual self-consciousness.
To do so, both authors must bring their readers as close to the slave plantation, ghetto, and the prison cell as possible. To do so, both authors refer to the reader with questions. This rhetorical method forces the reader to place him/herself in the life of the main character. For example, when discussing the abuse she took from her master, Dr. flint, Jacobs asks, "But where could I turn for protection?"(Jacobs 384). Here Jacobs makes the reader understand that the everyday rules that hold true for us, such as police or divorce, didn't apply to her. She makes it clear that she wasn't weak, but just lacked any other option. It’s clear to us as readers today, that the same assumptions would probably not have been made in the 1800s. But Jacobs is not only making this point clear to the reader; she is making it clear to herself. In writing her story, Jacobs comes to terms with herself.
Wideman, similar to Jacobs, employs the use of questioning the reader. While struggling with the issue of telling his brother's story without making it his own, he asks the reader a string of numerous questions:
"And if I did learn to listen, wouldn't there be a point at which I'd have to take over the telling? Wasn't there something fundamental in my writing, in my capacity to function that depended on flight, on escape? Wasn't another person's skin a hiding place, a place to work out anxiety, to face threats too intimidating to handle in any other fashion? Wasn't writing about people a way of exploiting them?"(Wideman 709).
Wideman, who seems uncomfortable with his relationship between his brother, the text, and himself, makes his problems obvious. He does this in order to make the reader’s ask themselves the same questions then put themselves in his place. This bombardment of questions delivers the reader...

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