Form and Content
Soul on Ice is a collection of autobiographical essays and notes on the black experience in the ghetto, in prison, and in the larger society. Eldridge Cleaver experiences great anguish as he constructs a philosophy capable of making sense of his life and of the inferior status of black people in America and throughout the world.
The book’s topics reflect a life shaped by events outside Cleaver’s control. Cleaver’s intellectual unfolding is mapped by his inner toiling to fathom himself and what is occurring around him. His autobiography is, therefore, a testament written by an outcast. Soul on Ice describes Cleaver’s endeavor to understand a world painted in black and white, a world in which poverty and powerlessness exist in the midst of plenty. It is, however, more than a personal account of one African American’s plight in a racist society; it is a narrative of all oppressed people in American society.
Cleaver pored through Greek classics, American history, and the works of Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung. He read insatiably from the works of African American writers such as Richard Wright, who inspired him, and James Baldwin, whom he found full of hatred for black people and confused about his own sexual identity. In Soul on Ice Cleaver takes Baldwin to task.
Cleaver’s account of himself is revelatory. A man with many burdens and demons, he claims to be too many things; it is left to readers to decide what he was, and when he was that way, from tidbits scattered through his book.
Soul on Ice shows Cleaver attempting to merge several philosophies: Black Muslim teachings, the attitudes of the Civil Rights movement, and the doctrine of the latter-day Black Power movement...
(The entire section is 720 words.)