Devoir de Philosophie

Essay : Stranger in the village

Publié le 23/09/2017

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Explain the choice of title for this essay, Stranger in the village             “I remain as much a stranger today as I was the first day I arrived.” James Baldwin. In Baldwin’s essay Stranger in the village, the African American anonymous narrator tells the reader about the situation he experienced in a tiny Swiss village. He also discusses the aftermath of our past History on our current behaviors and attitudes towards black people. However, the title of this essay owns several meanings and interpretations. The most oblivious meaning is probably the emotions felt by the narrator through his experience, however, the narrator also considers ideas such as differences between white and black people, the inhabitants’ lack of culture and finally he also compares the village to the USA, his country.             Throughout the essay, the narrator expresses his feeling about his experience in the village, the inhabitants and their behaviors towards him.  As soon as Baldwin’s character arrived in the village, people were shocked by seeing a black man for the first time as the narrator which racist comments left him without any real reaction. The villagers thought that his hair was the color of tar and that it had the texture of wire, or cotton. Villagers were touching his hair when he was sitting outside for five minutes or were making jokes about it, saying that he could let it grow and make himself a winter coat. The narrator knows they did not mean to be unkind, however, their actions and reactions could have been sometimes disrespectful. Furthermore, the inhabitants’ of this tiny village have opposed reaction towards the narrator. Some of them seem to be friendly to him, for example the bistro owner’s wife has conversed with him, some people exchange a few saluts and bonsoirs in the street and some of the older women always greet him when they pass next to him. However, a part of the villagers do not pass through its apriorism : the narrator is considered as a thief who steal wood and called “le sale nègre”. Finally, children are acting like their parents, some are agreeable and friendly and others are mean and afraid as their parents tell us that “the devil is a black man”. With all these feelings, the narrator clearly expresses his feeling of being an outsider, even if few people are courteous, he still can feel that he is not welcomed in this village where people are racist and narrow-minded.               The reactions of the villagers can partially be explained by their lack of culture and their narrow-mindedness. Indeed, these people live in a tiny village which is cut of the outside world.  They have to go to the village at the foot of the mountain to see a movie or go to the bank as there is no movie house, no bank nor library in the village. It seems that people in this village does not have lots of distractions except the church. However, this church has a custom which reposes on racist purposes : all year, the church collects money in order to buy Africans natives and to convert them to Christianity. This was reported to the narrator with pride by a villager. Here, we clearly see the narrow-mindedness of these people, they are not able to see that times are changing as they have no access to new ways of thinking. They rather stand their ground and still considered black people as inferior to the white men. Furthermore, parents transmit their beliefs to their children, which will transmit to their children and so forth on generations. Nevertheless, if the same beliefs and apriorism are transmitted over generations no change can be brought, people need to open their mind to the rest of the world and to stop living folded back on them.  Villagers also have some lack of culture, as an example a woman had never seen a typewriter before the narrator arrive with him, they are isolated from cultural activities, which can explain their reaction at the view of a person which culture are totally different. Thus, better knowledge and education are vital to bring change or these villagers will always consider something, or somebody they do not know as a stranger.   One of the main themes of this essay is how black and white people consider each others.            Through his essay, Baldwin discusses black and white peoples’ status over society. The white man is considered as a supremacist, which his conqueror past has made powerful over black people. According to Baldwin, the white man takes for granted his superiority over Africans-Americans because of his History : this latter enslaved black people and control them for centuries, even after the abolition of slavery and the segregation. The white man is unable to consider the black man as its equal, however, this is not a generality and some people accept black people in society without mistreating them.  Besides, the black man is, by his slave past, considered as inferior to the white man.  His identity has been taken away from him as his ancestors arrived in America and their named were replaced by others or by numbers.  Thus, with no real past history to refer to, the black man is considered as inferior to the white man which History has made powerful in all the places he conquered, and he has spread his contempt of black people all over it. Thus, whatever the place the black man will be, he will always feel like a stranger if white men with racist ideas are present.   Finally, one last meaning of the title is the fact that the “village” represents more generally Europe, and huge comparisons are made between these two continents. Everything that happens to the narrator in this village also happened in America, probably in another way but it was still racism.  American history has wrought American society and beliefs: the enslavement of Africans in the colony, the segregation, the lynching of black people have lead organizations such as the Ku Klux Klan to have such extreme importance in the 1950s’ American society.  With time, Americans attempted to make an abstraction of the Africans-Americans, however, it is impossible to ignore the presence of men as we all form part of society, but  by ignoring the African American and allowing him no part in society shows how important he is. Thus, Americans explain their racism by their history where the black man has always been enslaved and inferior, however, Europe does not have its historical background. Europe has never known slavery, at least not in its countries. Slavery was present in its colonies which were far from Europe. Thus, European racism is not explained by their superiority over other people but, probably by their fear of others cultures and their incapability to open their mind to other ways of thinking. Thus, because of History the black man will always be a stranger for white people.   Thus, the title of this essay owns several meanings. Beyond its first signification, which is literally what the title explain, Baldwin discusses the narrow-mindedness and the racism of people in two different countries : Europe and USA. Through his discussion, Baldwin establishes several statements such as the fact that the African – American and more generally the black man will always feel like a stranger, whatever the place he will go, especially if white people are unable to open their mind and to see that times are changing.  White people are trapped in history and history is trapped in them.

« people are courteous, he still can feel that he is not welcomed in this village where people are racist and narrow-minded.               The reactions of the villagers can partially be explained by their lack of culture and their narrow-mindedness. Indeed, these people live in a tiny village which is cut of the outside world.  They have to go to the village at the foot of the mountain to see a movie or go to the bank as there is no movie house, no bank nor library in the village. It seems that people in this village does not have lots of distractions except the church. However, this church has a custom which reposes on racist purposes : all year, the church collects money in order to buy Africans natives and to convert them to Christianity. This was reported to the narrator with pride by a villager. Here, we clearly see the narrow-mindedness of these people, they are not able to see that times are changing as they have no access to new ways of thinking. They rather stand their ground and still considered black people as inferior to the white men. Furthermore, parents transmit their beliefs to their children, which will transmit to their children and so forth on generations. Nevertheless, if the same beliefs and apriorism are transmitted over generations no change can be brought, people need to open their mind to the rest of the world and to stop living folded back on them.  Villagers also have some lack of culture, as an example a woman had never seen a typewriter before the narrator arrive with him, they are isolated from cultural activities, which can explain their reaction at the view of a person which culture are totally different. Thus, better knowledge and education are vital to bring change or these villagers will always consider something, or somebody they do not know as a stranger.   One of the main themes of this essay is how black and white people consider each others.            Through his essay, Baldwin discusses black and white peoples' status over society. The white man is considered as a supremacist, which his conqueror past has made powerful over black people. According to Baldwin, the white man takes for granted his superiority over Africans-Americans because of his History : this latter enslaved black people and control them for centuries, even after the abolition of slavery and the segregation. The white man is unable to consider the black man as its equal, however, this is »

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