Inspiring the Population Through his work, “Of Our Spiritual Strivings,” W. E. B. Dubois takes the reader on a journey through the typical black man’s eyes. He creates a new meaning of the African American man as he shares personal experiences and stories of the past alike. He plays upon the heart strings of every reader, no matter the race, with his literary knowledge of words, use of pathos, and stories of his past experience to pull in emotional ties to his work.
The application of dualism allows the reader, who is most commonly white men, to choose a side to sympathize with, for Dubois gives the ense of double consciousness as the African and the American throughout his entire work. The very first thing to be stumbled upon by the reader is the song which Dubois opens his work with. The world was formed off of the great ancestors telling the stories of history through oration. There was no television or radio to find the news of the world, for it was once spread by word of mouth.
By placing this poem as the first thing to be read, it gives the reader a thought to ponder of how times have changed since the time of their ancestors. He uses this song as a connection to his ife, for not only was song a way of storytelling, it also represented the black man’s spiritual music. It is said that there are two memorable moments in an African American’s life; when he realizes he is black and when he realizes that is a problem.
A line from the song, “As I lie and listen, and cannot understand”(Symons) he identifies with it as how he went through life Just sitting and watching, he could never understand how or why he was a problem. This song allows Dubois to bring in other sources of his pain. Directly after the song, Dubois sets his tone of the reasons for his passionate writing. He begins, “between me and the other world there is ever an unasked question: unasked by some through feelings of delicacy; by others through the difficulty of rightly framing it”(Dubois 1).
He states how the people he meets need not say even a word, because he knows what they are thinking. He knows the thoughts and questions they are pondering in their minds. Without even knowing a thing about him, they make assumptions based on his skin color and not his mind or heart. They immediately look for a way to identify with him by saying that they “know an excellent colored man in their town; or, fought at Mechanicsville”(l). They find comfort in having something in common with him and being able to form conversation even if it is slightly insulting in a way.
Instead of taking these comments from men he does not even know as insults, Dubois takes it lightly, for he has come to expect what these people say and cannot be insulted by them. These unasked questions represent the unwillingness to address the actual issue of why the black man is so neglected. Another incredible asset of Dubois that is noticed throughout his entire work is his ability to retell stories within the work. His story telling allows the reader to feel his ain on a deeper level.
He beautifully retells not only stories of the past and of the history of the Negro population, but he also retells stories of his childhood and growing up as an ATrlcan Amerlcan wlt n Tlnesse. I ne most memoraDle story ne tells throughout the work is by far the story of writing a card for another classmate but not having it accepted. He accounts of this when telling, “The exchange was merry, till one girl, a tall newcomer, refused my card,??”refused it peremptorily, with a glance”(2). This marked the day that he realized that he was not like the other boys nd girls in his class.
He enhances his point even further by not only saying that the girl refused once, but he repeats her refusal to get his point across of the pain he felt. She did not even think about accepting the card, but she instead peremptorily refuses it with only a glance at him. Oftentimes throughout the writing, he described himself as being “shut out from their world by a vast veil”(2). This veil became a symbol of his own world. He would never be able to see the entire picture of the world as the others in his class and in his life see it. This veil served as a film over is vision and in a way, it acted as a prison which he could never escape.
Perhaps the thought of being in the veil prison could continue back into history when his ancestors were slaves in their own prison. This veil not only symbolized his own imprisonment, but also how the general population saw him. They never saw the whole picture, for they only saw the outside and never took the time to lift the veil and understand what lay beneath. In both situations, there are no bars or brick walls to be found, rather a higher power accounted for their solitude. This higher power represented by Dubois was the white population. Even after emancipation, the slaves were still captive.
They worked only for a place to live and food to eat because they had no money to enter the world as working men in business or in anything other than their learned skill of farming and raising the household. Similarly, Dubois lives in a generation where the black man is free, yet he is still segregated in nearly everything he does. He claims how “The Nation has not yet found peace from its sins; the freedman has not yet found in freedom his promised land”(8). By writing this, he claims how America is still not perfect, yet no matter how far they have come, the shadow of a deep disappointment rests upon the Negro people”(8).
His biblical reference to the Promised Land signals the freedoms that were promised with this land that were never received by the black man. He presumes true that the African people with never actually be free. Through his studies, Dubois was highly fascinated in the different forms of writing, whether it be through his play on pathos, through his stories, or his use of literary devices such as catechresis and erotema. Through these techniques, he is able to connect with his audience on a much higher level. Dubois wrote his work with the nowledge that his audience would be mostly white.
Having a mostly white audience means that they would be Judging his work as a stab at the white population. Instead of bringing forth anger and hatred from his audience he is able to evoke sadness and compassion for the experiences he was put through and the pain he endured. Especially in the story of his childhood card giving gone awry, he is able to put forth pathos and bring the reader to his level. By doing this he gives the reader a much better understanding of what he went through, essentially allowing them to walk a mile in his shoes.
His use of literary devices may show the reader that Dubois has a great knowledge in many different subjects, but it also allows him to captivate his audience. He is able to avoid the continual use of the Negro population or ATrlcan Amerlcans Dy uslng tne pnrase “sons 0T tne nlgnt'(2). I nls also aaas a more sophisticated stance to his writing and makes a more poetic mark. He uses erotema to allow the audience to ask themselves a question without providing an answer. He makes them ponder thoughts such as “how does it feel to be a problem. “(l). Rhetorical questions imply agreement.
There is not answer to be given by the white man but rather an agreement that it must feel terrible to be a problem. Dubois’ ability to play on these devices allows him to connect with the audience in a new way that Jumps off of the page and into their laps. By using these tools, Dubois created a new way for not only his fellow black men to think, but also a new way for the white men to read. He is able to persuade his audience of what he wants by meeting them in the middle to bring them closer to his level and for him to get closer to their level.
He does not have the intentions to hange America, as he states how “He would not Africanize America, for America has too much to teach the world and Africa. He would not bleach his Negro soul in a flood of white Americanism, for he knows that Negro blood has a message for the world”(4). This desire is not make America a place where the African man is placed at highest priority, but rather to bring more awareness that they exist and are being readily ignored. He allows it to be known that he is not Just an American and he is also not just an African, but rather is an African American.
He is the representation ofa nion between two countries and two continents alike. The goal of Dubois was to open the eyes of the American people as to what was going on right in front of their eyes and by writing “Of Our Spiritual Strivings,” he may not have been able to open the eyes of his audience, but he is able to shed more light upon the topic and place a seed of thought into the readers mind. Works Cited Du Bois, W. E. B. The Souls of Black Folk. Chicago: A. C. McClurg & Co. ; : University Press John Wilson and Son, Cambridge, U. S. A. , 1903; Bartleby. com, 1999. www. bartleby. com/1141. 09/19/2013.