Triple Existence and Language

22 Feb

“However painful it may be for me to accept this conclusion, I am obliged to state it: For the black man there is only one destiny. And it is white” (Fanon 10).

In Black Skin, White Masks,Fanon’s main point is stated in the introduction; the identity crisis of a black man is his inability to be anything other than that which is seen by a white man. He states several times the incapacity to uncover an authentic identity. Fanon writes, “For not only must the black man be black; he must be black in relation to the white man” (110). As long as there is white, you are defined through those differences. An authentic identity is unachievable because of the simplification others denigrate. Although he attempts to lift himself up to some more complicated form of identity, he is unable to succeed. Throughout this reading, I couldn’t help making connections with Eugenides’ Middlesex. The main character, Calliope, struggles with identity- not only ethnic and cultural identity, but gender identity as well (she/he is a hermaphrodite). In a similar way, Fanon is trying to show the complexity of his identity crisis when it keeps being reduced to an issue of black and white. While Calliope has several elements to identity, Fanon explains “a triple person,” as “I was finding febrile coordinates in the world. I existed triply: I occupied space” (112). The three places include: body, race, and ancestors. I read this as having three elements of identity that he can’t mend together like Eugenides’ character. There is the self that is the interior, the race which is the exterior, and the ancestors which is his bond to others. Yet he is only seen in one simplified light- that of race.

In the last paragraph he writes, “I refuse to accept that amputation … I am a master and I am advised to adopt the humility of the cripple” (140). The language he uses throughout the chapters, and especially the ending provided more of an image to what is lost in identity. The image of amputation gives the feeling that a limb is taken from you through the simplification of identity; that a big piece of you is gone. Then to be a ‘master’ of one’s identity plays with the slave-master dichotomy. Even as a master, someone else is a master over you. He ends stating, “without responsibility, straddling Nothingness and Infinity, I began to weep” (140). He is in the middle of two extremes, capitalizing both to emphasize the ideas they represent. It is a nothingness that leaves you internally empty, and an infinity that makes you completely in power of the self.

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