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8/08/2019

What is "double-consciousness"? What elements of "double- consciousness" do you find in the poem, "I, Too, Sing America".



"Double-consciousness" is a term which belongs to the science of psychology. The term was, of course, coined by Du Bois. It refers to his famous theory of African-American "double-consciousness". It originally referred to the psychological endeavour Of reconciling an African heritage with a European upbringing and education. Du Bois, while speaking of double-consciousness in the context of race-relations in America, asserted that it has become
difficult for the black Americans to identify their black identify with American Poetry : A Study Guide
their American identifr. It is because they have lived in a society that has repressed and devalued them for several centuries.

The poem "I, Too, Sing America" seems to have been written from the perspective of an African-American. The speaker is a domestic servant at the house of a White American. From the statement of the black servant, the speaker, it is clear that he asserts
his position from a sense of the double-consciousness. One consciousness is that he is a black man, with African heritage.

Another consciousness is that he is an American, having as much love for the country as any other American, especially a white American- But he feels a big gap between his two consciousnesses;
he is not treated as equal with a white American, but he has the
consciousness that he is an American. He wants to cover this gap
between his two consciousnesses. And that is a challenge for him.

However, he is optimistic about meeting this challenge successfully.
First of all he states his condition as a black American. He is a servant at a whitman's house. He is faced with a glaring discriminatiom He is sent to kitchen for having his meal there, when guests come to visit his master. Then he goes on to take up the measure to conquer it. He takes this situation with a good humour, and sardonically laughs at his master. He takes this as an opportunity to prepare himself for a future contest with the white Americans. He eats well, and grows strong. He does this from a consciousness that he is a black American, and he is treated with injustice, and has to conquer this situation. From the one consciousness he plans to go over to the realisation of another consciousness that he is an. In this struggle to achieve equality, and thereby to fill the gap between his two consciousnesses, he feels quite hopeful. He hopes that in future he will become so worthy as to sit at the table with the white people. Then nobody will be able to tell him to go to kitchen for his rneal. He will become perfez•tly equal with his white brother, much so that the whiteswill be ashamed for their past behaviour.

Thus, double-consciousness is perceived to be a potent factor in
the poem "I Too, Sing America". And the gap between these two
consciousnesses is well-filled by the superb art of the poet.

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