LitPaper3 - Casey Gresh Kirch May 1 2009 Language...

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Casey Gresh Kirch May 1, 2009 Language: Empowerment or Repression The respective writers of “Coal,” “Bilingual Sestina,” and “The Message” all use their works to respond to their ethnicity and their womanhood in some way. In “Coal,” Audre Lorde refers her discovery of her own identity and its significance over racism and judgment. Julia Alvarez describes the uniting of her American side with her Dominican descent through the poem “Bilingual Sestina.” Ama Ata Aidoo’s Ghanaian influence as well as her gender-awareness shines through her use of dialogue in “The Message.” All three use means of expression, empowerment, or repression through their respective uses of language. Through these pieces, questions of language become particularly important for women writers of pluralistic identities. Each work grounds itself in Gloria Anzaldua’s foundational essay “Speaking in Tongues: A Letter to Third World Women Writers” which addresses the same issue of language and identity. Each writer uses the language in their respective works in order to portray the significance of their ethnic backgrounds along with their womanhood.
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Audre Lorde uses language in her poem “Coal” in order to depict self-assertion. She does this by beginning the work in a tone of rage and ending it with a tone of triumph and strength. She uses words like “black,” “flame,” and “colored,” to evoke emotions of passion and rage, and just immense feelings directed towards the object, which is racism (Lorde 1070). Having personally experienced the effects of racism, Lorde is writing about what she knows and what she went through. Rather than seeking pity from her readers and audience, Lorde alters her language to express strength from her personal experience. She even describes this in her first stanza in saying, “how sound comes into a word, colored/ by who pays what for speaking” (Lorde 070). In the second stanza she describes the different uses of language: “a diamond on glass windows,” “staple wagers in a perforated book,” “breeding like adders,” “gypsies over my tongue,” and she compares some to the devil.
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