Between the World and Me

by Ta-Nehisi Coates

Start Free Trial

Choose one of the photos found in Between the World and Me and analyze it. What seems important about this photo? Why do you think Coates puts this photo on the book?

In order to analyze a single photo in Between the World and Me, you will likely need to think about the relationship between that photo and the other pictures in the book and that photo's relationship to the text as a whole.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Ta-Nehisi Coates includes many photographs throughout Between the World and Me , but before you can jump into an analysis of a single photo, you may want to think about some more general questions and trends in the book. For instance, why do you think Coates chooses to include photos...

This Answer Now

Start your 48-hour free trial to unlock this answer and thousands more. Enjoy eNotes ad-free and cancel anytime.

Get 48 Hours Free Access

in the first place?

Many of the images show Coates and his family members, especially his son. Considering that the whole book is addressed to his son and that Coates speaks about fatherhood, family, and his experience growing up, perhaps these photos serve to reinforce the importance of family and passing on knowledge. They may give the reader the sense that they are looking at a scrapbook chronicling Coates and his son's growth over the years and, as such, allow a reader another way to visualize and connect with Coates's experience.

On the other hand, Coates is intensely concerned with embodied experience. As he writes, "the question of how one should live within a black body, within a country lost in the dream, is the question of my life" (12). In this light, the photos may serve as a way to remind readers that the author is not just a voice emanating from nowhere; he has a body and physical presence that photos can sometimes render more clearly than words.

Once you have thought about why there are pictures in the book at all, you will be able to think about specific photos. A good analysis of any of these images will likely require an analysis of some of the text as well. For example, on page 118, Coates includes a picture of one of the doors his wife saw in France. On its own, the image does not seem all that noteworthy; it is just a black-and-white picture of an arched double door. The text, however, helps reveal the importance of the image. Just before he describes how his wife took pictures of doors all over Paris, Coates notes, "when she returned her eyes were dancing with all of the possibilities out there, not just for her but for you and me"(117). Although the picture of the door is an example of the picture his wife took, it most likely also contains some symbolic importance at a point in the book where Coates is discussing discovering new possibilities. A close reading of the text related to the image you choose will be essential for identifying and analyzing the literal and symbolic significance of any of that photograph.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team