Sunday, September 21, 2008

Justifiable (?) Cynicism

The vicious cycle within which blacks in the United States are forced to contend is an avid breeding ground for adamant cynicism toward both society and humanity itself. Perhaps, it may be pointed out, justifiably so. When I use the phrase 'vicious cycle,' I'm referring partially (and this is just one example of many) to the idea that it is far more difficult for the black community to ascend both the social and fiscal ladder because of a lack of quality education, and it is nearly impossible, within the American system, to get a quality education without first being high on the social and fiscal ladder. More simply, where one lives affects the quality of education one receives, and the education one receives later affects where one lives. Such is the frustration, manifested in a cynical world view, felt by the narrator of James Baldwin's "Sonny's Blues." "...they were growing up with a rush and ther heads bumped abruptly against the low ceiling of their actual possibilities" (Baldwin 148). Baldwin rails against society's failings through his short story, and particularly through the characterization of the narrator and of his brother Sonny. The narrator, who takes the moral high road in becoming a teacher, comes no closer to escaping the above mentioned vicious cycle of society as does his drug addicted brother.
Society creates the predicament in which the characters are placed, as the narrator quickly asserts on multiple occasions. "Some escaped the trap, most didn't. Those who got out always left something of themselves behind, as some animals amputate a leg and leave it in the trap...It's always at the hour of trouble and confrontation that the missing member aches" (Baldwin 153). This cynical outlook, as Chris Vachon points out, creates a community in which controversial, influential figures such as Malcolm X are able to thrive, feeding off oppression to increase unrest. Malcolm X represents a valid rebellion of societal ideals, a rejection of injustice and a provocation of action. The author frames a dangerous, all too real environment which society has allowed, even encouraged. It may prove, as it has proven to be in so many other societies, our downfall. Baldwin serves the function of a storyteller as defined by our class in this light, warning us before it is too late that social oppression promotes social unrest, which in turn catalyzes rebellion.

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