Shame by Dick Gregory: An Overview

Topics: Shame, Embarrassment, Hunger Pages: 1 (348 words) Published: October 24, 2013
Shame is defined as "a painful feeling caused by a sense of guilt, shortcoming, impropriety; dishonor or disgrace." This painful emotion can come from either external sources such as the feedback from people around an individual or from internal sources such as a person's own worldview. In the story "Shame," author Dick Gregory describes his experiences with both externally and internally motivated shame.The externally motivated shame Richard feels is caused most notably by his teacher, who made belittling comments about Richard's poverty, his lack of a father and his poor school performance, which she insensitively assumed was a result of stupidity, not the hunger pains of a child used to going to school without breakfast and eating stolen food or paste to satiate his gnawing hunger. His humiliation is described in a scene in which Richard attempts to pledge money to charity, only to be chastised by his teacher. "We are collecting this money for you and your kind, Richard Gregory. If your daddy can give fifteen dollars you have no business being on relief. . . . We know you don't have a daddy." Before the unkindness Richard experiences at school, he was innocent of the prejudice caused by social differences. He knew he was poor, but he was not really aware how different he was compared to his peers. "I never learned hate at home, or shame. I had to go to school for that."The externally motivated shame Richard feels because of others' repulsion of his poverty becomes internalized. Gregory describes his embarrassment about wearing clothes that were obviously given to him in charity and eating food from the relief truck. "I spent a lot of time feeling sorry for myself."Young Richard is motivated to overcome his shameful circumstances by his affection for a well-to-do classmate, Helene. He makes creative use of the little resources at his disposal to wash his clothes in melted ice water, and he attributes his successes in high school and college to her influence. He...
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