Analysis Of James Baldwin's My Dungeon Shook

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In the opening letter of James Baldwin’s My Dungeon Shook the reader is instantly “shaken” as they travel back in time to an era where they learn racial inequality is a pressing issue. This letter was written to the author’s nephew, but it has a broader-reaching audience towards all Americans with the hope of helping people understand what it is truly like living during a time plagued by racial inequality. The author aspires to show all people how to have love and respect towards one another and to understand there is a bigger picture than one’s individual situation. The opening correspondence to his nephew is also written on the 100th anniversary of the emancipation proclamation, which shows a tremendous amount of irony due to the fact …show more content…
Due to the damage he believes it has done to his county, Baldwin attempts to teach his nephew to be accepting of everyone. “And I know which is much worse, and this is the crime of which I accuse my country and my countrymen, and for which neither time nor history will ever forgive them, that they have destroyed and are destroying hundreds and thousands of lives and do not know it and do not want to know it” (Baldwin 5). With this statement the author provides the reader with insight into Baldwin’s life and what it was like to live during this time period. This allows the reader to understand his pain and struggle in life and his real views about racial inequality. Baldwin truly wants all the races to feel they can be treated the same and get along in a cohesive and family environment without causing harm to each other or the country. We are able to see this through Baldwin’s use of procatalepsis in an attempt to show the struggles and pain everyone went through. He uses this strategy to overcome potential questions or objections such as reminding his nephew most of mankind does not mean all of mankind and at times even innocence can constitute …show more content…
In James’ life he never really has to make any decisions for himself. Everything he does is expected to be within certain parameters, and he never gets to do anything for himself. His main goal is to please others. This prevents James from having the typical freedom most American white people experience. “You were born into a society which spelled out with brutal clarity, and in as many ways as possible that you were worthless human being” (Baldwin 7). This allows the reader to see the brutality towards the African Americans. This society is built up over time to make people who differed from the majority feel like they are worthless not worth anything and in essence a waste to this Earth. As a result of the fact James was never able to make any of his own decisions people continued to control his life and Baldwin grows concerned for him. He urges him to trust his experience and place faith in no one but himself. He tells him there is no limit to where he can go, and reinforces he is capable of anything he puts his mind to despite what everyone believes. Baldwin does not want his nephew to feel as if he is defined by the stereotypes of the society he lived in. Again Baldwin uses the strategy procatalepsis to convey his message by articulating he can hear people saying he is exaggerating, but he anticipates the objection by stating they do not know

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