Mr. Z vs Im

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Chameleons, originating from the Reptilian class, are most commonly known for their distinct characteristic to blend into their surroundings as a camouflage. Mr. Z in M. Carl Holman’s poem of discrimination, “Mr. Z” and IM in Ralph Ellison’s Invisible Man both comprise the aforesaid phenomenon, utilizing camouflage as a survival tactic in their surrounding society.

When first comparing Mr. Z to the speaker in Invisible Man, it is easily noticed that both the characters have an apparent burden originating from their ethnicity. The initial line that gives the audience a hint of Mr. Z’s African-American race says, “taught early that his mother’s skin was the sign of error” (Homan 1). Thus, the ‘error’ being that he was born as a man of color, and that it is wrong or unacceptable to be African-American. Likewise, the speaker in Invisible Man relates himself to Louis Armstrong’s song, “Black and Blue.” In the epilogue, IM ascends from his deep hole, to a realization of hearing, “What did I do/to be so black/and blue?” After hearing the “familiar” music, IM suddenly is aware that “few really listen to this music” (Ellison 12). As IM reflects upon the curse of his skin with the jazz music of Armstrong, Mr. Z is too prudent to even listen to the native music of the south and “disclaimed kinship with jazz and spirituals” (Holman 4). Both characters try to blend in with the white race by suppressing culture they were born into. Another example of suppressing their indigenous instinct is the food that is endemic to the south that one character ultimately disowns and the other only once binges on. For instance, Mr. Z mentions the role that Anglo-Saxonism played in his diet. In line ten, Holman mentions, “Of pork in its profane forms he was wary/Expert in vintage wines, sauces, and salads/his palate shrank from cornbread, yams and collards.” The chameleon-like characteristic of blending in is apparent as Mr. Z gives into what is expected for the ‘white, intellectual type’...
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