Otherness is the act of one group or individual viewing another as inferior because of apparent differences, often to bestow feelings of self-importance on themselves. Otherness can be found in a variety of forms. The person or group labeled as “other” may be different race, religion, social class, etc.
Claude McKay’s poem “White House” is a clear example of otherness. The poem depicts an African American male, or the African American population as a whole as political outcasts. McKay establishes his point of view of the outsider by speaking from the first person’s perspective. He portrays himself as an outsider by placing ownership of the house (White House) and its laws with another. McKay refers to these items in his poem as “theirs”. McKay clearly exemplifies estrangement and marginalization by speaking as an outsider looking in, as opposed to being a part of the political process. McKay believes the only method to overcoming this feeling of inferiority is to become more educated. In his poem he states, “Oh I must search for wisdom every hour”. Claude McKay also believes that he must maintain a pure heart to combat the hate he feels from the government, “Oh, I must keep my heart inviolate”. McKay is identified as the “other” in the literary work as he uses words to identify himself like me, my, and I. Claude McKay’s poem “White House” depicts a 20th century American government as the force that views him and the African American population as “other”.
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