4th of July

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In her essay “The Fourth of July”, Audre Lorde conveys her anger toward American society. Her anger is caused by the racism and discrimination in her country. Although she clearly establishes her claim, Lorde uses irony to express her opinions yet control her anger.

Lorde’s essay was written in response to her family’s trip to Washington D.C. the summer after her graduation from eighth grade. In it, she writes, “the waitress was white, and the counter was white, and the ice cream I never ate in Washington D.C. … was white and the white heat and the white pavement and the white stone monuments of my first Washington summer made me sick to my stomach for the whole rest of that trip…”. Here, the author uses situational irony, where what actually happens is different than what is expected, to show the contrast between what she thought Washington D.C. should be ad what it actually was. Lorde knew that the capital of the United States stands for freedom, liberty, and equality; therefore she thought racial discrimination would not occur there. However, Washington D.C. was part of the southern states, the ones that favored slavery after the Civil War, so racism was even stronger there. The author’s repetitive use of the word “white” to describe people, places, and things in Washington D.C. convey not only the setting and racial views of the city, but also Lorde’s anger towards her nation’s capital.

Just as in the first example of irony, Lorde carefully writes her essay to control and contain her ravishing anger. She states, “I was squinting because I was in that silent agony that characterized all of my childhood summers, from the time school let out in June to the end of July, brought about my dilated and vulnerable eyes exposed to the summer brightness”. This is an example of Lorde’s use of verbal irony. The author incorporates this quote into her piece in order to explain the pain she felt while squinting to see...
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