The title Shadow and Act is drawn from a movie review Ellison wrote in 1948 for Magazine of the Year entitled ‘‘The Shadow and the Act.’’ The title makes reference to the disparity between screen images of African Americans, in effect mere shadows of real people designed to suit the ideas of the mainstream, and the reality of African-American life. The collection as a whole is aimed at representing the same disparity on a broader level; drawing on American folklore, ritual, literature, and music, Ellison illustrates the complicated relationship between American culture as a whole and what he calls the Negro-American subculture. In the course of essays, reviews, and interviews written over twenty-two years, Ellison demonstrates his evolution as a writer and a thinker, makes observations about American culture as a whole, and in particular, represents autobiographically his experience of being black in America.
Section One: ‘‘The Seer and the Seen’’
The first section of Shadow and Act is comprised of ten pieces mainly concerning fiction and folklore. In the interviews, ‘‘That Same Pain, That Same Pleasure’’ and ‘‘The Art of Fiction,’’ as well as in the speech, ‘‘Brave Words for a Startling Occasion,’’ Ellison discusses his influences and evolution as a writer, culminating in his novel Invisible Man. ‘‘Twentieth-Century Fiction and the Black Mask of Humanity’’ and...
(The entire section is 907 words.)
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