"In the Kitchen" Analysis

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Throughout essay “In the Kitchen,” Henry Louis Gates Junior recalls a time when he and his friends and family constantly tried to straighten their African American “kinky” hair. They did this to try to fit in with white people. The writer is using his personal experience as an African American straightening his hair to show how black people felt about assimilating into white society. It was very difficult for blacks to fit in with white people but he remembers how this difficult time brought the black community together.

The writer starts off the essay in the kitchen of his own house with his mother straightening her friends’ hair with what they call a “hot comb” (323). The writer starts in the kitchen to introduce another meaning for the word. “The kitchen” was not just the room in which the writer’s mother would do hair; it was also a term use to describe the especially “kinky” bit of hair at the base of one’s neck (324). Many black wanted to have hair that looked more like a white person’s hair and Gates admits that he also tried straightening out the kinks in his hair with different types of greases and waxes, and wearing do-rags. He said “[he] used to try everything, short of getting a process,” which was a way to chemically straighten one’s hair (326). Most black people used these tedious methods rather than getting a process because it was expensive. The writer emphasizes how hard blacks tried to have hair like the white people to represent black assimilation into white society. The “kitchen” in the back of their head that is nearly impossible to make straight hints that black could never really be a part of white society.

His mother was the one who did everyone’s hair. This shows that she was very in favor of assimilation. When Gates admitted to trying different ways, he hints that he wanted to change too: However he refers to an incident when he is older and his mother checked his own daughter’s head for the “kitchen” and he yells at her. He said...
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