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This Essay Is A Critical Comparison Of Adrienne Rich's "When We Dead Awaken: Writing As Revision," And Ralph Ellison's "Extravagance Of Laughter."

1124 words - 4 pages

Adrienne Rich vs. Ralph EllisonAdrienne Rich and Ralph Ellison's essays both refer to their means of resistance to the oppression they experience in their lives. Rich's "When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision" describes her experiences as a female writer overwhelmed by the "patriarchy" in the "masculine world of the academy."(Rich 557) Ellison's essay, "An Extravagance of Laughter," is an account of his life as an African American in the largely white population of New York City. Throughout both of their essays, Rich and Ellison discuss their different means of dealing with the oppression they encounter in their lives. Rich's concept of "revision" allows her to see the past and deal with her present situation accordingly; thus she can improve upon her future by learning from the past. Ellison's laughter allows him to cope with the discrimination and suppression of African Americans. Laughter is Ellison's way of surpassing his reality. Unlike Adrienne Rich, Ellison's laughter doesn't transform his reality. His laughter transcends his reality.Laughter is Ellison's way of coping with his reality. His means of dealing doesn't allow him to transform his reality, since it is not possible. Laughter is Ellison's way of dealing with the reality he knows, since he cannot alter his reality. His knowledge of the laughing barrels certainly does not transform the white society to equal his oppressed African American society. It may, in fact be said that laughing barrels made the white society resent the black society's power over them with their infectious laughter, as illustrated by the following quote."...the uproar from the laughing-barrels could become so contagious and irresistible that any whites who were so unfortunate as to be caught near the explosions of laughter would find themselves compelled to join in - and this included even such important figures as the mayor, lawyer, cotton broker, Baptist minister, and brewers of prime "white-lightning" whiskey. It was an appalling state of affairs, for despite their sternest resistance, even such distinguished whites literally cracked up and roared! And although it was recognized that it sprang from the unnatural and corrupting blackness of Negro laughter... and thus it was that from time to time even the most dignified and tradition-bound whites found themselves joining in. (Ellison 167)Obviously Ellison's description of African American laughter, in the eyes of white society, and more specifically, through the eyes of "distinguished whites" if far from pleasant. He describes black laughter as "unnatural" and "corrupting." It sounds something similar to a disease, an infectious disease rooting through the healthy vegetation and corrupting the well being of "white society."Adrienne Rich's means of coping with her reality, of helping to convert her oppression into equality, is through her writing. All throughout her essay she protests the domination of the world of literature by a "patriarchy." She...

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