Racism in Literature Criticism: The Theme Of Racism In Literature - Essay

Clare R. Goldfarb (essay date summer 1971)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Goldfarb, Clare R. “The Question of William Dean Howells's Racism.” Ball State University Forum 12, no. 3 (summer 1971): 22-30.

[In the following essay, Goldfarb examines Howells's attitude toward racism in the United States as revealed by the themes and characters of his novella An Imperative Duty.]

William Dean Howells' attitudes on race and other social problems are worth studying. Examining our writers, past and present, for social attitudes has been part of the intellectual scene for a long time, and the examination is even more intense today. In particular, our preoccupation with race and racial attitudes is central. It is a fact of contemporary...

(The entire section is 5093 words.)

Chinua Achebe (essay date 1977)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Achebe, Chinua. “Conrad's Racism.” In Readings on “Heart on Darkness,” edited by Clarice Swisher, pp. 184-94. San Diego, Calif.: Greenhaven Press, Inc., 1999.

[In the following excerpt from an essay originally published in 1977, Achebe argues that in Heart of Darkness Conrad characterizes Africans in a way that dehumanizes them and sets up a contrast between civilized England and uncivilized Africa.]

Heart of Darkness projects the image of Africa as “the other world,” the antithesis of Europe and therefore of civilization, a place where a man's vaunted intelligence and refinement are finally mocked by triumphant bestiality. The book...

(The entire section is 4220 words.)

Anna Shannon Elfenbein (essay date winter 1987)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Elfenbein, Anna Shannon. “Kate Chopin's The Awakening: An Assault on American Racial and Sexual Mythology.” Southern Studies 26, no. 4 (winter 1987): 304-12.

[In the following essay, Elfenbein comments on Chopin's questioning of prevailing racial stereotypes, especially pertaining to women's sexuality, in her novel The Awakening.]

Kate Chopin's The Awakening (1899) shocked its nineteenth-century readers by presenting without comment the adultery of Edna Pontellier, a wealthy, white American wife and mother adrift in Creole society. The shock was so great that the novel went unread for almost sixty years. Recent critics have tended to blame the...

(The entire section is 4021 words.)

André Bleikasten (essay date 1987)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Bleikasten, André. “Light in August: The Closed Society and Its Subjects.” In New Essays on “Light in August,” edited by Michael Millgate, pp. 81-102. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1987.

[In the following essay, Bleikasten explores Light in August in light of Faulkner's depiction of Southern society in the 1920s and 1930s, focusing on his treatment of outsiders by the community.]

Until the subject of a tyrant's will
Became, worse fate, the abject of his own

—Percy Bysshe Shelley, Prometheus Unbound

As has often been pointed out, none of the main characters of Light in...

(The entire section is 8450 words.)

Thomas R. Tietze and Gary Riedl (essay date 1992)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Tietze, Thomas R., and Gary Riedl. “‘Saints in Slime’: The Ironic Use of Racism in Jack London's South Sea Tales.Thalia 12, nos. 1-2 (1992): 59-66.

[In the following essay, Tietze and Riedl discuss London's treatment of racism in his stories about South Sea islanders, concluding that his ironic style indicts the brutality and ignorance exhibited by white people toward the natives.]

In Jack London's many stories of the South Seas, the white man has brought racism, cruelty, powerful weapons, and disease to a remote and beautiful wilderness in his quest—his calling—“to farm the world.” Ironically, the foreigners also have come to bring the...

(The entire section is 4183 words.)

Toni D. Knott (essay date 1997)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Knott, Toni D. “Playing in the Light: Examining Categorization in To Have and Have Not as a Reflection of Identity or Racism.” North Dakota Quarterly 64, no. 3 (1997): 82-8.

[In the following essay, Knott addresses the charge made by Toni Morrison and other critics that Hemingway displays racist tendencies in To Have and Have Not, asserting that these critics fail to perceive irony in Hemingway's treatment of the subject.]

Tribe, race, clan, family; deep within us all are the seeds of hate for what is different. We do not have to be taught these things. We have to be taught not to give in to them! They are in our blood; but...

(The entire section is 2858 words.)

Frances W. Kaye (essay date 1999)

(Twentieth-Century Literary Criticism)

SOURCE: Kaye, Frances W. “Race and Reading: The Burden of Huckleberry Finn.Canadian Review of American Studies 29, no. 1 (1999): 13-48.

[In the following essay, Kaye discusses the enduring relevance of Twain's Huckleberry Finn but emphasizes that the novel also glosses over racism in white society by making the reader complicit with the limited worldview presented in the novel.]

For the great mass of admiring readers, because Huck and Jim are friends, and because Jim is finally emancipated, the novel's ambiguities are simply dissolved in an overflow of relief and warm fellow-feeling. … Huckleberry Finn continues to be our...

(The entire section is 13760 words.)