, Research Paper
Frederick Douglass and Richard Wright wrote memoirs recounting their experiences with racism. Though their writing styles are completely different from one another, the subjects they discuss are similar. After reading each piece they have both made me empathize with their feelings, however different their lives are from mine. Their memoirs, My Bondage My Freedom and Black Boy, provide insightful images of the racist and cruel treatment these writers experienced. Despite all of their stylistic differences, after both excerpts I understand the passion they felt for the hatred they endured.
The variation of the writers use of quotation marks provides insight to the degree of formality that Wright and Douglass express. Wright uses quotations frequently and exclusively in dialogue. Included within the quotes are the unjust requests, unfair news, and degrading remarks that infuriated him.
Hello, Ned. What s new? I asked.
You ve heard, haven t you? he asked.
My brother, Bob?
No, what happened?
Ned began to weep softly.
They killed him, he managed to say.
The white folks? I asked in a whisper, guessing.
He sobbed his answer. Bob was dead; I had met him only a few times, but I felt that I had known him through his brother (p. 382).
I feel as though I can hear the words just as he did. Richard Wright s use of quotations is effective in creating an informal tone and expressing his feelings of powerlessness. It is a very effective tool for an empathetic reaction from the reader.
Douglass use of quotation marks is quite opposite from Wright s. Screaming and song are only in quotes to place emphasis on the importance of the information he includes. Let my mammy go – let my mammy go , a child screams (p. 143). His economical use of quotes makes each outburst extremely powerful and passionate. This shout of terror makes it easy to feel the urgency Douglass felt.
Their use of I also attributes to the greater understanding of their cruel experiences. Frederick Douglass rarely refers to himself with I . He does, however, mention incidents that had a direct effect on him.
Although my old master- Capt. Anthony- gave me at first, (as the reader will have already seen,) very little attention, and although that little was remarkably mild and gentle description, a few months only were sufficient to convince me that mildness and gentleness were not the prevailing or governing traits of his character (p.135).
This part of his style leaves me understanding his experiences in the most factual way possible.
Richard Wright uses I frequently, and constantly persuades me of his opinion of his experiences. I am convinced that he was wronged though in a less factual way.
I had one more problem to settle before I could make my speech. I was the only boy in my class wearing short pants and I was grimly determined to leave school in long pants. Was I not going to work? Would I not be on my own? (p. 387).
With more personal reference it is easier to identify with Wright.
The role of circumstance is important in comparing and contrasting Wright and Douglass. Wright chooses to take responsibility for everything, while Douglass is more passive in taking ownership in his actions. Wright does not let circumstances control him; instead he decides to control the situation.
Douglass, however, is quite the opposite. He chooses to be the victim of his surrounding circumstances. Everything determines what will happen to him. Douglass describes One of the first circumstances that opened my eyes to the cruelty and wickedness of slavery, and the heartlessness of my old master, was the refusal of the latter to interpose his authority, to protect and shield a young woman, who had been most cruelly abused and beaten by his overseer in Tuckahoe (p. 137). Douglass really makes me feel how I would if those circumstances were affecting me.
The length of the sentences and paragraphs reflects the formality of their voices as well. Douglass writes lengthy paragraphs and has a varied sentence length throughout. Wright has both short sentences and paragraphs.
Throughout the pieces, Wright is much more personal and informal while Douglass strives and succeeds in writing a more factual account of his experiences. Both are successful in their expression of the unkindness they endured, their choices of expression were simply different.
I left each piece feeling the harshness and seeing the vivid images both writers portrayed through different styles and techniques.