What are the critical elements of Malcolm X on Chapter One, Nightmare?

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Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In looking at the synopsis of Chapter 1, I would pay close attention to how Malcolm examines the role of race in his past.  This would involve discussion of Earl Little's preaching of Marcus Garvey.  It would also involve the violence in his death.  I think it's important to pay close attention to this because it actually operates as a foreshadowing element that Malcolm, himself, asserts.  Though not the writer, Malcolm injects a note of foreshadowing because he believes that he will suffer the same inevitable fate as his father.  The parallels do not escape both the reader and Malcolm:  Strong, Black man preaches an unpopular philosophy that threatens the existing power structure only to be silenced by a violent and brutal death to serve as an example to others to remain silent and/ or complacent.  Malcolm understands this early on the in the narrative and uses it to form his own experiences throughout it.  At the same time, paying close attention to the debilitating effects of race on a personal level for Malcolm allows greater understanding as to why the subject dominated his thought throughout his life.  For Malcolm X, the issue of race is the single most important in his life because of its impact on his life from an early stage.  Chapter one helps establish this.

Read the study guide:
The Autobiography of Malcolm X

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