Black and White: Analysis of “The Little Black Boy” and “The Artificial Nigger” Essay

Black and White: Analysis of “The Little Black Boy” and “The Artificial Nigger”

            Equality for all men can only happen when we learn to treat others right and accept them without prejudices. Racism and discrimination aren’t something that was natural but rather something that we, as people, have ruled on ourselves. If we can only learn to have faith and understand other people’s situation, then we will surely know what equality is. This is what William Blake and Flannery O’Connor try to say in their works, “The Little Black Boy,” and “The Artificial Nigger.” Both literary piece conveying messages about perceptible inequity, its roots and consequences, and the solutions the authors have posed, undertakes a child’s viewpoint of the world, and how a parent could lead him to understand what “racism” actually is.

            “The Little Black Boy” of William Blake illustrates that a person’s complexion should not be a reason for him to be ashamed of or be envious about. It is a matter of acceptance and how one should look upon his condition as a trial by God. There are some things that just can’t be changed; yet, still can be cherished as they are. The poem, which develops to entice readers to understand life as it is, gives lessons on how one could fight and perhaps avoid racial discrimination.

Through perfectly arranged stanzas, Blake managed to create a vivid story flowing smoothly around a child, his mother, and the revelations about equality, justice, and Christianity. Each line, written plainly and without intricacy, seems simple enough yet holds in itself a deeper and more complex meaning. The unquestionable rhymes, following a strict pattern as shown in its a-b-a-b form, have made the poem more appealing to the readers and its sense more understandable. In fact, the story of the poem seems to have become more vigorous with its use. And via the inevitable metaphors and symbolism, the author had shown his thoughts in an entertaining way.

            However, to fully understand and explore William Blake’s thoughts, it is better to quote the specific lines which explain more clearly the poem’s veiled message. The first stanza says, “My mother bore me in the southern wild, and I am black, but oh my soul is white! White as an angel is the English child, but I am black, as if bereaved of light.” Here the author clearly emphasizes the idea of racism. He is black and there is the white and angelic English child. It shows that there is the apparent positions; the white child being the higher one, and him at the lower state. It also adheres to the concept of dark versus light whereas dark symbolizes evil and light represents purity and good; therefore revealing hints of the speaker’s jealousy towards the white child.

            Following the course of the poem, we would recognize and realize, conversely, that it is not racism that is actually being highlighted and tackled by the author but rather “equality.” Although, the poem implies that the faultless impartiality could be seen when we are free of our material bodies and have joined God, as said in the lines, “And these black bodies and this sunburnt face is but a cloud, and like a shady grove” in the fourth stanza and “When I from black and he from white cloud free, and round the tent of God like lambs we joy” found in the fifth verse. Through the last five stanzas as well, the poem have covered views regarding faith and through them we become conscious of how William Blake shows his value on life and religion. Absolutely, Blake offers here that we live only for a matter of time. When we have learned to live by God’s rules and be freed of the physical body, we would join Him in His Kingdom and there we would all be equal.

            Blake, who have so chosen the words “The Little Black Boy” as title have made an appropriate option. Though it doesn’t sum up what the poem have to say or foretell what is yet to come, it gives us an insight to which the poem is tending, urging the readers to sympathize with the speaker at the very start. Even the colons and semi-colons he has used variably in the poem accentuate the speaker’s emotions. At the end of the second stanza, we find that the author had made use of a colon instead of a regular comma. This was done not just to make a strong pause but also to emphasize that the succeeding lines are the most essential part of the poem. It is the very fact since the ensuing three stanzas hold the main theme. Meanwhile, the semi-colon used in line one of stanza six and in the second line of the seventh verse, propose a turning point. At first it was the child’s twist of view, from being envious to being appreciative. He was enlightened by what his mother said and thus brings him to change his views about his skin color. The second semi-colon, on the other hand, shows a slight turn in terms of actions. The little black boy, after taking in his mother’s lesson, told the English child the knowledge, offering him covers against the sun, grasping the thought that now that they are equals, there’s already a way for the white child to love him as he is. The slow melancholic rhythm of the poem suggests that it needs sufficient emphatic time for its lesson to be appreciated. And true enough, the poem and its warranted message took time, some decades approximately, for people to see its value.

            Thoroughly, William Blake had profoundly evoked the ideas of equality for all men in this poem “The Little Black Boy.” All the way through, the poem, with its prominent rhymes and sentiment-inducing word choice, has explained that all of us after this impermanent life would be just the same in front of God. We may suffer hardships and discrimination but it will all come to pass. Faith is all we need and trials are what they all are. Besides, it’s just like what the genius Albert Einstein said, “Before God we are all equally wise—and equally foolish.”

            And since we are all but human, we would always have imperfections that can’t be evaded. We may grow in age and experience, but still we will miss out on some things. In Flannery O’Connor’s “The Artificial Nigger,” it is shown that we learn about life, God, and forgiveness by looking not on others but at our selves. The author, in the course of the story, teaches the readers that people are just as artificial as a plaster statue when they differentiate. And it’s not entirely because of skin coloration that one plants hatred causing him to discriminate, but there are other factors as well.

            In the story, Mr. Head, the authoritative grandfather of Nelson, was a self-righteous man; He believes that never had he sinned gravely and went on to bring Nelson to the city for him to learn once and for all, that there is nothing in the city that he should be proud of being born to; As suggested by his line, “The day is going to come,.. When you’ll find you ain’t as smart as you think you are.” But actually, through Mr. Head, the author, Flannery O’Connor, showed the readers that every one of us, though having all the knowledge, would still learn a thing or two when faced with a complicated situation. Indeed, Mr. Head represented everything that O’Connor wanted to say. Through Mr. Head’s selected and carefully made dialogues with his grandson, the author imparted her ideas about discrimination, relationships, and an undying love which urges people to forgive and forget.

               The conversations within the story were informal and quite rural (though it incessantly changes as they pass on different areas), and in reality could be used with the modern terms of today; such is a line dropped by Nelson, “If you ain’t been there in fifteen years, how you know you’ll be able to find your way about?” Its language and slang were not very far from ours and the imagery created through the story was more than vivid. Even the building and the paths which the characters crossed were described luridly. There are also loads of emotions and feelings placed in the story that it could actually make one feel the destitution, contempt, and repentance presented by the characters. Symbolism, mainly coming from Mr. Head, Nelson, and the statue they referred to as “the artificial nigger,” shoves the audience to realize where racism and discrimination roots from and how as God forgave us, we could learn to love and forgive others too.

               “The Artificial Nigger,” a personal favorite of O’Connor, was titled as such to bring to people’s mind that a person becomes artificial when he discriminate others. Through the redundant use of the word “nigger,” the author emphasized her point; that the term itself is a word coined out of prejudice and revulsion—the result of pointing at other people’s dirt in the face when one’s own was actually unclean. And due to these ideals of discrimination, we tend to commit sins that are hard to pardon; like what Mr. Head have done to Nelson. In the midst of the boy’s anxiety, clinging to Mr. Head for safety, he was denied. Every one was appalled to hear Mr. Head deny a boy of his spitting image as the line, “The women dropped back, staring at him with horror, as if they were so repulsed by a man who would deny his own image and likeness that they could not bear to lay hands on him,” propose.

               Nelson and Mr. Head continued their walk, surrounded with feelings of hatred and shame. This is the point where the author fully reveals where racism and discrimination actually roots from. They are both white and thus there is no place to blame one’s complexion. Through analyzing the story’s progress, we would come to a conclusion that discrimination comes not just from the difference of skin color but also the thought of being superior to others. It is the need for power and the need to satisfy our insecurity that provokes us to discriminate.

               On the whole, Flannery O’Connor has made her message in the story lucid and evident. The detailed descriptions of the city, the vibrant flow of the characters’ actions, and the surreal connection that Mr. Head and Nelson felt after seeing “the artificial nigger,” with its battered look that gave way to their reconciliation, have flourished O’Connor’s ways of teaching life’s values in her story “The Artificial Nigger.” Undeniably, she has proved in this piece that prejudices are the central obstacles that hinder us from not discriminating; that judgments prevent us from seeing the good that lies beyond appearances, just like Wayne Dyer have once said.

               But being the central theme of two great works like William Blake’s “The Little Black Boy,” and Flannery O’Connor’s “The Artificial Nigger,” the word “racism,” “discrimination,” and all its accompanying aspects, take on a different meaning. Whereas Blake describes racism as a problem to be encountered and accepted, O’Connor suggests that discrimination roots from our own selves, when we try to judge and be over others. From here on, the elements, points, and forms of these two splendid works of art deviates from each other. Though each one primarily tackles racism, as it is a substantial issue during their authors’ time, each uses a different strike and angle to support and strengthen their own points. Flannery O’Connor chose to put her ideas in a prose, slowly unveiling her message in the dialogues exchanged by the characters while William Blake went for the form of poetry, tracking the enlightenment of the speaker in his poem.

               Through reading, one may find it easy to be hooked with Blake’s “The Little Black Boy,” as it attracts its audience to read further with its sweet, glum rhythm. Speaking using the first person, as displayed by the lines “And I am black, but oh my soul is white! But I am black, as if bereaved of light,” and “And then I’ll stand and stroke his silver hair, and be like him, and he will then love me,” with the words “I” and “Me,” Blake demonstrates his views regarding racial discrimination, reinforcing his poem’s concept by making a black child as the lead character. On the other hand, O’Connor decided to use the third person (though it might have been said that the story describes a little about her), apparently seen by her usage of proper names like Mr. Head and Nelson when referring to a character; and by doing so made her story a slow, lesson-filled travel. There is so much said in “The Artificial Nigger” that joins together in a long literary piece, which one might find too long to read. However, if one tried to begin reading the story, he would, no doubt, be mesmerized at how O’Connor had put collectively such scenic words to create a masterpiece.

               In both writing, the authors made use of the relationships between parent and child. The reason may have been that, lessons could be delivered better when there is intimacy brought by close family ties. However, we would recognize that, between the black child and his mother, and Nelson and Mr. Head, there is more openness, compassion, and understanding between the characters of Blake’s poem. Through that closeness, the mother have taught her child a lesson that reaches his heart; thereby making him accept himself and see the world and his status in an entirely new manner. It might be argued though, that Mr. Head and Nelson had a greater age gap, since Mr. Head is actually Nelson’s grandfather, and thus have the disadvantage of miscommunication due to vastly different generation views; but the fact that Mr. Head had, in a way, degraded Nelson to ensure his position over him tells us that as a teacher, he is as ignorant as how he views his grandson.

               Nonetheless, both parental figures had left a lifelong message in their child’s mind. In William Blake’s “The Little Black Boy,” the mother taught her son of acceptance of one’s self and understanding that the privation that happens at the meantime are just trials brought on by God to test us, which in the end will all conclude as we join Him in heaven; while in “The Artificial Nigger” of Flannery O’Connor, Mr. Head and Nelson, through understanding each other, realized that discrimination is a thing we ourselves have created. And by learning to forgive others, as God have forgiven us, we discover that discrimination is just a fanciful disillusion. And at the end of it all we finally learn that equality for all men is only done by starting to treat others as we treat ourselves.