Double consciousness refers to the individual view of sensation, when your personality is separated into several parts, making it hard or unbearable to have one fused personality. Double consciousness also hinders the individual decision-making process. This might eventually lead to isolation. Double consciousness is evident in Johnson’s “The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man”. (“Double Consciousness & Du Bois: Definition & Concept – Video & Lesson Transcript | Study.Com”). The author introduces us to the narrator who was born to a family of mixed race, at a time when racism was at its peak in America, and racial discrimination was normal. The narrator’s father is a rich white man while the mother is an African-American. This state of things, however, came to play a big role in the narrator’s life. He was told to sit down when the principal requested white students to stand up in the class. At this moment narrator realized for the first time that he was not white. He went further to ask his mother, and she confirmed to him that he was black. It was ironic because despite being born to a white man, he was still identified as black.
Double consciousness that had built along the racial identity later influenced the thoughts and behavior of the narrator in different ways. This made him weary of others, isolated, and lonely, he devotes his time to music and literature. When the narrator came into contact with his father, he admired his pale skin and calm demeanor.
Racism appeared once again when the narrator fell in love with the white woman. She left him with no comments after his confession about his race. At this point, the narrator was confused about whether to embrace a ‘colored’ individual or pass a white, and as such he was regretful for identifying himself as black. However, the woman returned and agreed to marry him.
Ambivalence is a dilemmatic situation where an individual is unable to make a choice between two opposite courses of action. Socialized ambivalence is vivid in Johnson’s ‘The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man. Throughout the novel, the narrator has problems with embracing his identity upon the realization that he was not white. (“Meet Me in St Louis: The Classic”). When he fell in love with a white woman, the decision of revealing that he was black did not only shun the woman away but also stole happiness from him at that time. It illustrates the consequences that suffered after the incident.
The narrator observed the popularity of the African American preacher John Brown and music lead singer Johnson at Macon, Georgia. Not being a religious man, he admired their charm. This incident alone showed the inner struggle of the narrator in determining which of his side is dominant. After all, is he the African American or the White? His decision was quickly influenced by the incident where he witnessed a gang of white assailants burning a black man alive. (“Meet Me in St Louis: The Classic”). This disturbing event caused him to distance himself fully from his race and to live as a white man. It was possibly instigated by fear.
Another socialized ambivalence appeared when the narrator became a father. He had the opportunity of choosing either of the available options. The narrator chose to pass mainly as a white man. He did it for the benefit of his children; he wanted the best for them in the future, which was only guaranteed if one was white. Eventually, the narrator became an ex-colored man as he chose to live his life as a white.
“Meet Me in St Louis: The Classic.” At the Movies – ABC TV. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2017.
Study.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 14 Feb. 2017.
Turner Classic Movies. N.p., n.d. Web. 30 Jan. 2017.