How did Essie Mae grow morally psychologically and intellectually?

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bmadnick eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Essie Mae grows morally when she recognizes the injustice of racial discrimination and decides she must help to do something about it. Up until she goes to college, Essie Mae hears of the horrible things happening to blacks, but she has not done anything to help the situation. When she goes to college, she joins the NAACP and other groups to try to change racial discrimination. At the end, she gets on the bus to Washington, D. C.

Psychologically, Essie Mae's story is a bildungsroman--a coming-of-age story. She does well in school as a girl, but she's really insulated from the discrimination and violence. As she grows into a teen, she then begins to hear of incidents of violence against blacks, but she doesn't feel she can do anything about it. It's when she refuses to be a bystander anymore and to get involved in the civil rights cause that she grows psychologically.

Of course, Essie Mae's educational growth occurs as she continues her education, but her educational growth also refers to her education as a black person living in the South during the time.

As Essie Mae grows chronologically, she also grows in all of these three areas. So her coming-of-age story is one of growth in all areas of her life. It would be rare for a person not to grow in one area when she was growing in one or both of the other areas.

Read the study guide:
Coming of Age in Mississippi

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