Critical Edition of Young Adult Fiction Soul on Ice Analysis
Like one of the heroes he celebrates, Malcolm X, Cleaver’s intellectual life began at the low point of his physical life. Imprisoned and with nothing left but his mind, Cleaver ironically discovered, like Malcolm X, that even before he came to prison he had been subject to an even worse form of deprivation: His life was not his own but had been controlled by a society that forced him to react in terms of stereotypes, not only of himself but also of whites and other African Americans. In prison, he began to understand and acquire the freedom of choice previously denied him.
Also like Malcolm X, Cleaver’s relationship with the white race is first antagonistic, then ambivalent, and finally conciliatory, provided that whites demonstrate that they understand what Cleaver describes as their bloody role in world and American history and work to change it. The first stage in the development of Cleaver’s judgment is presented in “Initial Reactions on the Death of Malcolm X,” which displays his hatred not only of whites but also of African-American “stooges of the white power structure.”
An interesting transitional view appears in “ ‘The Christ’ and His Teachings,” in which Cleaver reviews the career of Chris Lovdjieff, a teacher who tried to bring the message of love to Cleaver and other prisoners. Cleaver half mockingly refers to Lovdjieff’s classes as “his act” and rejects the teacher’s insistence that Cleaver love Lovdjieff, whom Cleaver perceived as simply a sensitive white man trying to unload his burden of guilt. Yet the writer confesses that his...
(The entire section is 656 words.)