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Why doesn't James Weldon Johnson give hs narrator a name in "The Autobiography of an...

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kayla1996 | Student, Grade 11 | Honors

Posted February 24, 2013 at 9:06 PM via web

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Why doesn't James Weldon Johnson give hs narrator a name in "The Autobiography of an ex-Coloured Man"?

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted February 24, 2013 at 9:29 PM (Answer #1)

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The narrator does not reveal his name supposedly to protect the innocent, but really to create an effect of the novel being a real autobiography.

The narrator is a black man who is “passing” as white.  Therefore if he writes an autobiography revealing the color of his skin his wife and children will face retaliation.

As my outlook on the world grew brighter, I began to mingle in the social circles of the men with whom I came in contact; and gradually, by a process of elimination, I reached a grade of society of no small degree of culture. (ch 11, p. 92)

The narrator comments that his situation appeals to his sense of humor.  He is popular among his white friends, but if they knew that he was black they would not feel the same way about him.  Not knowing his name increases the distance between the reader and who he really is, enhancing the persona of the narrator instead.

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