For ages, literature work has always reflected the activities that take place in the society and that influences human life. Karl Max (4) indicates that literature is a reflection of social institutions in which literature emerges and is itself a social system with a conceptual function. Research reflects the struggle of materialism by people. Apart from class struggle, literary oppression has always dominated historical and sociological writings. Oppression is where a dominant group which possesses some authority over a minority group subjugates them. However, a minority does not mean that they are small in number. It can be well explained through sociological and mathematical minority. These two concepts are not the same. Mathematically, a group can be the majority but fall victims of oppression of a mathematically small group. In several literary works including Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison, Barn Burning by William Faulkner, Tennessee Williams A Streetcar Named Desire and Mending Walls, the authors portrays oppression of their characters in various ways. Hence this paper will discuss how these writers depict character that are oppressed in the readings focusing on whether or not the authors project hopeful outcomes of these characters.
Ellison (15) in Invisible Man, brings the contradictions of racial discrimination in the society of the United States. He brings about this inequity by depicting the oppression of women by explaining stereotypical women character in the narrative. For example, when a protagonist was given an opportunity to offer a speech to a group of significant White men in his town, a White blonde lady is depicted as a seductress. The name of the character is not given a name and only her physical appearance which the author explains as attractive. The hair was yellow like that of a circus kewpie doll, the face heavily powdered and rouged, as through to form an abstract mask, the eyes hollow and smeared a cool blue, the color of a baboons butt. (19). Ellison shows hope for the blonde woman as the protagonist offers to protect her. On the other hand, in Barn Burning by Faulkner he depicts the oppression between the rich and the poor classes after the end of the Civil War. Some of the characters that represent abuse as indicated by Faulker are the story of Sarty and his father Abner who is a farmer. The wealthy class that oppresses these characters is the Major de Spain their landlord. Unlike in Ellison whose characters are suppressed based on gender, Faulkner's depiction of oppression is based on class. Poverty is highlighted, and it is evident that the upper-classes influences the lower-class and create a high abuse. For instance, Justice questions Abner and punishes him by forcing him to leave the country. Take your wagon and get out of this country before dark, case dismissed (23). The author does not show hope for the oppressed because Abners evil character of burning landowners barns costs his family to keep changing places every time.
A Streetcar Named Desire by Williams there is tension between classes that results to oppression and exploitation in the society based on material possession. The bourgeoisie and the proletariat are in constant conflict as the owners of production continuously oppress the poor. For example, materials that are used by the author to portray the lives of the oppressed characters are alcohol. She pours a half-tumbler of whiskey and tosses it down (Williams 18). Blanche sneaks and takes her first drink when she is in the house of Kowalski. Her alcohol dependence is attributed to the depression she is undergoing concerning her past life and the societal pressures she experienced. Pressures that would have been avoided were it not for capitalism, exploitation and the oppressive nature of the owners of production. She is a representation of how the residents of Elysian have sought refuge to alcoholism. The men are often in bars while the women engage in alcohol abuse. In all these, William portrays how the owners of labor have been subjected to alcoholism as a result of oppression. The author further indicates that alcoholism is the only way of coping with the issues and the characters are unable to save themselves because economic vein continues to be strong on the owners of factors of production. In Mending Walls by Frost, characters suffer from political oppression which is different from the abuse suffered by characters from the other writings. Frost uses the Wall as a metaphor of the overwhelming authority that politics have over the liberty of individuals. Unlike in A Streetcar Named Desire where the major focus is on oppression based on classes, Frost chooses to depict the characters of the readings to face political oppression they are unable to disentangle due to the unmended fence at the end of the poem.
In conclusion, oppression of characters prevails in the readings with some individuals being exploited because of their classes. Other people are oppressed due to gender while others are oppressed based on political grounds. Although it may be impossible for some individuals to overcome oppression, the blonde woman can overcome gender stereotype by having the protagonist as her protector.
Ellison, Ralph. "Invisible Man. 1952." New York: Vintage (1995): 577-84.
Faulkner, William, and Starring tommy Lee Jones & Diane Keegan. Barn burning. Learning in Focus, 1979.
Frost, Robert, and Daniel R. Arowood. Mending wall. Woodpile Press, 1991.
Williams, Tennessee. A streetcar named desire. Bloomsbury Publishing, 2015.
Marx, Karl, et al. Marx & Engels on literature & art: a selection of writings. Telos Press, Limited, 1973.
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