What is America? This question is posed all throughout history and even in books. In the average history book America is depicted as this place where everything is “happy go lucky”. But there are many underlying factors such as racism and sexism. Racism is defined as prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior. Sexism is defined as prejudice, stereotyping, or discrimination, typically against women, on the basis of sex.
The three books that will be talked about throughout this paper will be The Awakening, Black Boy and The House on Mango Street. In the autobiography Black Boy by Richard Wright there is a common theme of racism because Wright grew up in the south and in the south racism was an everyday occurrence in the early 20th century. “I looked about to see if there were signs saying: FOR WHITE–FOR COLORED (Wright 31). I saw none. Black people and white people moved about… ,”this quote shows how common racism was in the south and how in the north it was the complete opposite.
Throughout Wright’s life in Mississippi and Arkansas he is exposed to the violence inflicted upon blacks by whites. Black Boy shows this violence caused by whites when Richard was beat up by Pease and Reynolds and made him quit his job also, when Uncle Hoskins is killed by white competitors, or even when Ned is killed in Jackson for sleeping with a white prostitute. In The House on Mango Street racism is prevalent. In the chapter titled Cathy Queen of Cats she talks about a girl whose family is racist against hispanic. ” okay I’ll your friend.
But only till Tuesday. That’s when we move away got to. Then as if she forgot I just moved in, she says the neighborhood is getting bad(Cisneros 12) … , “When the child said the neighborhood is getting bad what she meant by it was that more hispanics were moving in the area and they did not like it. Sexism is all throughout The House on Mango Street. Sexism worked to affect the characters through set gender roles being instilled within the children at an early age and then being reinforced throughout their lives as they grew into adulthood.
An example of this can be seen in the chapter of the book titled Hips, where Esperanza, her younger sister Nenny, and her friends are chatting about what uses women have for their hips, why they are important to the female body and how one should go about practicing for when they appear, as they are playing jump rope with each other (Cisneros 49-52). The contrast between the youthful action of jumping rope and the discussion of how each girl thinks they will use their hips in the future shows how sexism finds a foothold in the children of the community and begins its influence.
One of the girls in the group, Rachel, states that she believes hips are good for holding babies while cooking (Cisneros 49). Rachel’s perception of how a woman should use her hips is a clea reflection of how the gender roles of her society will most likely influence how she will use hers in the future. This also shows how her setting or her surrounding influence her train of thought. In the chapter Alice Sees Mice Alice wants to go to school and get her education and when her father finds out he disapproves and says “Anyway, a woman’s place is sleeping so she can wake up early with the tortilla star (Cisneros 78-79).
This is her father stereotyping women by saying that they are only meant to cook, clean, and raise the children and nothing more. In the House on Mango Street there is also a great deal of sexism due to them being hispanic. According to the article “Sexism and Racism in a Spanish Sample of Secondary School Students, it says that Finally, Table IV shows results of intercorrelations between racism and sexism and personality for boys and girls. As for girls, at all levels of sexism, prejudices against women and racism diminish significantly as their age and course (year) increase (Fernandez 22).
In the chapter titled Boys and Girls it shows sexism because the boys in Esperanza’s neighborhood were taught to ignore women and and not to be seen out with them in public, also Cisneros said that “the boys and girls live in separate worlds(Cisnero 10). ” this is showing how separate men and women are and how boys are taught to treat the women of their community. In the Book The Awakening sexism is a usual occurrence. “The Awakening” she is a married woman with children that is living in an environment that does not have the same beliefs as her.
This has an effect on how she has to act because she must follow her husband’s rules and stay married because her husband doesn’t believe in getting a divorce. She also has to act this way because she is a woman, women throughout history have been subject to not being able to speak out because they are considered lower than men. Throughout the story the main character, Edna, is seen as the submissive type an example of this is that she is still married because her husband does not believe in divorces. Throughout the story she is oppressed and this eventually leads to her suicide.
Throughout the course of this class a recurring topic was what is America? Is America this place where you achieve the greatest things in life? Or is America really just like any other place with many underlying factors such as Racism and Sexism? All throughout American history the ideas of racism and sexism has just been repetitive. In these three books it shows the real world, it gives you a taste of the real world without any of the sugar, it shows, yes women are thought of as lesser than men, it shows yes people really don’t always get what they want, and it definitely shows that America is not this picture perfect place