What do you think are the 3 main tones used by Malcolm?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I sense that there are three main tones that Malcolm uses in The Autobiography of Malcolm X.  The first can be termed as Malcolm of the streets and of the time.  In this tone, Malcolm is a youth and, invariably, becomes a product of the street culture.  Word choice that highlights this would be "conk," a process used to straighten out his naturally curly hair.  In addition to this, one can sense that he is speaking slang of the hustle, the notion of "running numbers" or "being slick" are all evidenced of this.  In this particular tone, Malcolm is living a life that is preoccupied with the present, the eternal now, and his actions indicate that his life is only of the temporal moment that will not envision the future.  In the second tone, Malcolm is of "the Nation of Islam."  In this phase, Malcolm awakens to understanding what the nature of being Black in America is.  The word choice we can see relates to the historical examination of "oppression" and "systematic abuse of the darker races at the hands of the lighter ones."  Malcolm awakens to understanding that the person he is is borne out of the experiences he has had.  In the final phase or tone, Malcolm envisions the future.  Still being a follower of Islam, Malcolm breaks from the Nation and seeks to identify a new understanding of Islam that will embrace a stronger sense of racial consciousness and harmony.  Some of the language here is discussion of "the future" and a tone that seek to transform what is into what can be.  This sense of progress and attempting to articulate the future carries with it a premonition that he will not live long enough to see it, proving in his mind the need for the Autobiography in the first place.

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