Literary Analysis of Two Texts
Instructor: Irene Robles-Huerta
March 21, 2015
The short story, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been”, by Joyce Oates, (1966), and the poem, “What it’s Like to Be a Black Girl”, by Patricia Smith, (1991), are both about the coming of age of young girls and the conflicts that they encounter. The two pieces explore issues that most young girls have with their bodies and others during their puberty years. The literary elements that will be compared in this essay is imagery and symbolism. The main conflict in both pieces that will be explored is individual versus self. These literary elements and conflict will help us to explore the issues that these two individual young girls dealt with concerning their femininity and the loss of their innocence. There are many types of conflicts all around us. The conflict of individual versus self is an internal conflict that takes place in the mind, Docimo, (2015). It is the thing or issues that keeps a character in turmoil in a story. In the short story, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been”, the main character Connie is in direct conflict with herself. In the very beginning of the story it is apparent that she is very aware of her looks and knows that she is a pretty young lady. It is clear in the statement of her mother, scolding her for always looking into mirrors. Her mother tells her to “Stop gawking at yourself. Who are you? You think you’re so pretty?” Oates, (1966). Connie goes through a great deal to make sure that she looks good and that she is noticed by the opposite sex. In her mind she has to always look good. However, when it comes to the poem, “What it’s like to be a Black Girl, Smith, 1991) the conflict of individual versus self is being 9 years old learning about your femininity and growing up in a race that is not considered beautiful and just wanting to fit in. At the beginning of the poem, it states that the girl is 9. This is the beginning of puberty for many young girls. The girl is hoping the changes that are going on with her body will bring a about some changes in her life. “First of all, it’s being 9 years old and feeling like you’re not finished”. It’s as though, the changes that are to come are going to be better than what’s already been. The main change she hopes is that she will be considered beautiful because unlike Connie in the first story this 9 year old girl don’t believe she’s pretty at all. So she’s hoping that, what’s to come? Is better than what’s been? Although there are many different literary techniques used in these two pieces imagery is an element that is depicted in the both of them. Imagery is a literary technique that appeals to the senses of its readers. It gives the reader a visual of what the writer is feeling about what he or she is writing. In the poem, “What it’s Like to Be a Black Girl”, by Smith, (1991), imagery is used to display the writers feelings of being black and not necessary proud of being black, “it’s dropping food coloring in your eyes to make them blue and suffering their burn in silence”. The writer could be using the word blue as a way to depict the wanting to have beautiful blue eyes like many White women as opposed to the dark brown or black eyes that she probably possessed. Imagery is also seen in the way how the writer explains her encounter with the opposite sex. “It’s finally having a man reach out for you then caving in around his fingers”. It is having a man finally paying attention to you but not knowing that he only wants to control your body. Likewise, in the short story, “Where Are You Going, Where Have You Been”, by Oates, (1966), imagery is a literary element that is used to help illustrate what was happening in the story. There were many emphases to music that was used in the story like this, “the music was always in the background, like music at a church service”. Music was used to describe how Connie was feeling...
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