“Othello”, “A Worn Path” and “Negro” Literature Comparison Essay

May 16, 2021 by Essay Writer

Race can be discussed as the factor which is used to accentuate the person’s otherness and specific identity. Although such works as William Shakespeare’s Othello, Eudora Welty’s “A Worn Path,” and Langston Hughes’s “Negro” are rather different in their genre, structure, and idea, these three works discuss the same theme of race. To understand the role of race as one of the main themes presented in the works, it is necessary to analyse the authors’ approaches to discussing the topic in detail.

Although Hughes in his “Negro” discusses race as the main source for the character’s identity and attempts to accentuate the role of the black race for the whole world history, Shakespeare in Othello and Welty in “A Worn Path” are inclined to provide the emphasis on the characters’ race as the explanation to their behaviours and actions; thus, the concept of race in the tragedy and the short story can be discussed as having the hidden meaning.

In “Negro,” Hughes states his racial identity openly while drawing the audience’s attention to this fact. Thus, Hughes declares in the first line of the poem, “I am a Negro” (Hughes 1). This self-identification is necessary to support the idea that the character is proud of his race, and he discusses his race as important for the whole world’s history and development.

Hughes states that being a Negro means to be a slave, a worker, a singer, and a victim, but the reader can note that the emphasised self-identification is necessary to support the idea that the character’s race is the real reason for his pride. Culp notes that it is characteristic for Hughes to discuss his race as the source of pride because of his identity.

In this case, Hughes plays the role of “the spirit of his race” (Culp, 240). To accentuate the role of the black race for the world’s history, Hughes uses the metaphorical similes and the night imagery to stress on the character’s blackness, “Black as the night is black, / Black like the depths of my Africa” (Hughes 2-3, 18-19; Jackson 90). Hughes also uses the allusions to Julius Caeser and George Washington to emphasise the historical significance of the black race (Hughes 5, 6).

Even though Hughes accentuates that the blacks were slaves and victims, his short metaphorical representation of the African American history within the world context can be discussed as the author’s focus on the special role of the blacks in the history. If the black identity is openly discussed in Hughes’s “Negro,” and it becomes the main theme of the poem, the race plays the more subtle and vague role in Shakespeare’s Othello.

Shakespeare’s main character Othello is a black, the Moor, but the role of his race for the tragedy’s plot and characters’ behaviours is not obvious. On the one hand, Othello’s race is not accentuated, and the character is depicted equally to the other characters in the tragedy while being “great of heart” (Shakespeare 5.2.359). On the other hand, Othello’s racial identity can be discussed as that force, which makes him act decisively and brutally.

The role of the race in the tragedy can also be discussed while referring to the presence of the racial discussions in Othello. Thus, the statement of the Duke “If virtue no fair beauty lack, / Your son in law is far more fair than black” can be discussed as rather racist because of referring to the colour of skin as the measure for fairness (Shakespeare 1.3.290-91; Skura 309).

Furthermore, it is important to note that Othello is focused on his reputation, power, and role in society. Othello has to retell the story of his redemption, and this aspect accentuates the fact that Othello is the Moor. Thus, he is the ‘other.’ Shakespeare is inclined to use pathos to attract the audience’s attention to the role the racial identity for Othello’s vision of himself, but these proclamations seem to be hidden behind the accentuation of Othello’s behaviour (Braxton 7-8).

This aspect can be discussed as supporting the idea that the role of race in Shakespeare’s Othello is significant, but this overall meaning of the racial identity is rather hidden. The same indirect focus on the role of the race for the work’s idea is presented in Welty’s “A Worn Path.”

Welty states that the main character of the short story is a Negro in the first lines of the work, but this statement seems to be insignificant about the story’s plot even though the author provides a lot of symbols and metaphors to accentuate the role of the race. Welty’s main character is Phoenix Jackson, the old female who starts the journey to find the medicine for the grandson.

The first symbol used by the author is the female character’s name ‘Phoenix,’ which means that the woman can cope with all the difficulties at her path while recreating herself (Orr 69). The race is also accentuated indirectly while Welty depicts the environments around Phoenix. Thus, Phoenix is portrayed while being surrounded with “big dead trees, like black men with one arm” and with “dozens of little black children” (Welty 457-459).

The symbolic persons and objects are as black as Phoenix herself, thus, the race plays a role in Welty’s short story, but this role is rather subtle and unique. Discussing the role of the race as blackness in Welty’s short story, Moberly states that Phoenix’s race “serves no other purpose than to symbolize that she is closer to nature” (Moberly 108).

That is why, Welty does not use the race as the main theme to attract the readers’ attention, but this topic serves as the background to accentuate the atmosphere of the short story and its hidden meanings.

On the one hand such works as William Shakespeare’s Othello, Eudora Welty’s “A Worn Path,” and Langston Hughes’s “Negro” are rather different about their themes, important messages, and used literary devices. However, these three authors discuss the theme of race in their works. The role of race in Shakespeare’s Othello, Welty’s “A Worn Path,” and Hughes’s “Negro” depends on the author’s discussion of the identity.

In Othello, Shakespeare is inclined to use the idea of race to provide the background for the character’s actions and thoughts. Welty uses the concept of race to accentuate the symbolic character of her short story and the connection of the black people with nature. On the contrary, Hughes makes the theme of race main in his poem while discussing the role of the black race for the world’s history.

Works Cited

Braxton, Phyllis Natalie. “Othello: The Moor and the Metaphor”. South Atlantic Review 55.4 (1990): 1-17. Print.

Culp, Mary Beth. “Religion in the Poetry of Langston Hughes”. Phylon 48.3 (1987): 240-245. Print.

Hughes, Langston. “Negro”. Literature: Craft and Voice. Ed. Nicholas Delbanco and Alan Cheuse. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2012. 363. Print.

Jackson, Richard. “The Shared Vision of Langston Hughes and Black Hispanic Writers”. Black American Literature Forum 15.3 (1981): 89-92. Print.

Moberly, Kevin. “Toward the North Star: Eudora Welty’s “A Worn Path” and the Slave Narrative Tradition”. Mississippi Quarterly 59.1 (2006): 107-127. Print.

Orr, Elaine. “Unsettling Every Definition of Otherness”: Another Reading of Eudora Welty’s “A Worn Path”. South Atlantic Review 57.2 (1992): 57-72. Print.

Shakespeare, William. “Othello”. Literature: Craft and Voice. Ed. Nicholas Delbanco and Alan Cheuse. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2012. 1023-1065. Print.

Skura, Meredith Anne. “Reading Othello’s Skin: Contexts and Pretexts”. Philological Quarterly 87.3 (2008): 299-334. Print.

Welty, Eudora. “A Worn Path”. Literature: Craft and Voice. Ed. Nicholas Delbanco and Alan Cheuse. New York: McGraw-Hill, 2012. 457-468. Print.

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