Autobiography Of An Ex Colored Man Analysis

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In James Weldon Johnson’s novel, The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man, the man represents the contradiction of race and color; simultaneously legally black and visibly white. This bi racial characteristic allows him to embark on a challenging journey of self-identity, which results in him questioning his own racial makeup. Throughout a series of events, the ex-colored man receives only a short taste of both worlds, inflicted by exterior tensions while facing mixed emotions to find his self-identity. He ventures out to establish a profound personal identity of independence in a system that aggressively denies him equal rights, and his assertive self-determination allows him to reject the rules of the color division. Johnson’s novel is not …show more content…
An example of this may be found when he passes as white whilst in Europe in the company of a millionaire. During his time there he has a desire to return to the South and live as a black man again, but the millionaire rejects the black culture. “This idea of you making a Negro out of yourself is nothing more than a sentiment: and you do not realize the fearful import of what you intend to do. What kind of Negro would you make now, especially in the South? (Johnson, 142) The millionaire questions why he would want to leave this magnificent life and return to face a life full of …show more content…
He wanted to live a more fulfilling life and thought passing as white would give him social and economic advantages, however, in the end it was not as great as he thought. Once he passes as white at the end of the book, he realizes what he lost. “It is difficult for me to analyze my feelings concerning my present position in the world. “Sometimes it seems to me that I have never really been a Negro, that I have been only a privileged spectator of their inner life; at other times I feel that I have been a coward, a deserter, and I am possessed by a strange longing for my mother’s people”(Johnson, 206). He felt like a coward when he abandoned his race, his culture, and his birthright. Throughout the book, the ex-colored man goes from the imitation of a white identity, moving to the black one, and going back to his condition as a white man, and with this came tensions between his identity. He considers his life best lived successfully for both him and his children by being white, but he is not at peace within himself, “I cannot repress the thought, that, after all, I have chosen the lesser part, that I have sold my birthright for a mess of pottage” (Johnson, 207). He is conflicted because he wants to do what is best for his family, but his identity is still lost with a mass of contradictions. By passing as white, he is not at ease with his inner self and the ex colored man represents the tragedy of trying to live

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