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W.E.B Du Bois

W.E.B Du Bois

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Published by: sirenlyfox on Oct 11, 2012
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The Souls of Black Folk W.E.

B Du Bois’, 1903 book, “The Souls of Black Folk,” discusses themes focused on the black community during the onset of the twentieth century. By using the metaphor of “the veil” and the term “double consciousness,” Du Bois is able to illustrate themes of social divide between the black and white communities. The “veil” is a recurrent link throughout the text and provides a tangible connection between the fourteen essays that construct "The Souls of Black Folk." Du Bois elaborates that the only way for the black man to find attainment is to reconcile the African and the American aspects of his character. Only when these two opposing sides merge will he be able to integrate and find fulfilment in society. The genre of the book is not limited to one definition. Contrarily, it incorporates autobiographical recollections from Du Bois, as well as recording historical context about American society in the early 1900‘s. The purpose of this is to illustrate Du Bois’ experience as a freed black man, who is able to see pass the “veil.” The reference to history is to highlight the relevance African Americans had on their environment. Du Bois wanted black people to be visible in a society that wanted to deny their voice both socially and culturally. He wanted to show that the humanity of black people was hidden by the “veil,” illustrating that to be considered less than human, helped to further the exploitation against African Americans. Consequently, Du Bois says in his forethought that it was his motivation: “to sketch, in vague, uncertain outline, the spiritual world in which ten thousand Americans live and strive.” (Du Bois 1996:1) What Du Bois was trying to do is give a written historical account of the legacy of slavery and specifically the challenge of black people in this new “world.” This is seen from his unique perspective of being able to look pass the “veil.” This was written during a period of American History that had to contend with the violent riots that followed after The Reconstruction Period, as well as the formation of the KKK. However, Du Bois explains that these black “Americans” have had to use their spirituality in order to survive. Yet, with all the possible issues, Du Bois refers to an “uncertain outline” as if he is struggling with the remit he has given himself. It is as if there is too much information that he can only “sketch” a brief “outline.” Furthermore, Du Bois suggests that from the day he is born, the black man is handicapped by his adopted world: “The negro is a sort of seventh son, born with a veil, and gifted with second sight...” (Du Bois 1996:5) The language “seventh son” is almost biblical in its description. It is as if Du Bois is trying to link the black man to his spiritual African past to give him a history that he is unable to access in America. Also it refers to nations that have already been conquered and made invisible because of their defeat. The “negro,” however is still visible but he is born with the sinister “veil,” that makes his humanity invisible. The portrayal of his “second sight” is termed as a gift but it is a fruitless endowment. It is a gift that challenges the Negro to see himself reflected back through the “veil” and through the eyes of “others.” However, in addition to the “veil” the black man also had to content with his internal duality: “One ever feels his twoness,-an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body.” (Du Bois 1996:5) The repetition of “two” illustrates the internal conflict that challenges the black man. So, not only externally is he made to feel different because of his “dark body,” but inside he can never reconcile himself to these differing aspects of himself. It speaks of the complexity of taking on two identities. The African part of him, would remember the traditions and cultures of Africa but there would undoubtedly be the remembrance of how his ancestors were brought as slaves to America. Paradoxically to be American would mean to acknowledge that he is seen as a “problem” by white Americans. Therefore, Du Bois suggests that the only way the black man can resolve this paradox and to progress is to: “attain self conscious manhood, to merge his double self in to a truer self.”(Du Bois 1996:5) These lines are important because they give the only solution that Du Bois can offer to the problem of the “veil” and “double consciousness.” And that is not to choose one aspect but to “merge” them, so that Negro can leave the infantile stage of not properly recognizing himself. This

com/newsite/reportessay/literature/novel%5cthe_souls> Dickson D.” 10th February 2008. 2 (Jun.CO%3B2-N> . E. Penguin books.studyworld.is not to say that he. would Africanize America or bleach his Negro soul” but that he would incorporate these two different worlds by realising the importance of both. 64. what W.B. pp.. “the black man. He depicts them as an invisible people that have been forced to see themselves through the eyes of “others. Du Bois and the Idea of Double Consciousness” American Literature > Vol. “W. <http://www. Bibliography Bois Du W. “The Souls of Black Folk. Bruce Jr. The Souls of Black Folk.E.” and that black people have had to use their spirituality in order to survive in America. B. 1996. Du Bois’ answer to the problem of the “veil” is to merge the conflicting aspects of his soul and only then will he be able to access America.E.jstor. 299-309 < http://links.” Du Bois shows that the humanity of black people was hidden by the “veil. No. Web Site—No author Study World.org/sici?sici=0002-9831%28199206%2964%3A2%3C299%3AWEBDBA %3E2. (Studyworld: 2008) In conclusion.0. 1992).B Du Bois attempts to highlight is the plight of black African Americans.

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