themes of prejudice and degradation in oconners the artificial nigger

In OConners “The Artificial Nigger” the essences of prejudice and degradation are captured to a great extent.Reality shows us with needless consistency people who need to feel better about themselves and only achieve it by being better than someone else. Mr. Head, the grandfather, is an example of one of these people. He is in competition with seemingly everyone he encounters. Racism is just one of the forms he utilizes to demean others, while elevating his own self-image. OConners depiction of a southern, prejudice, and close-minded person goes into the extreme depths of what constitutes as well as motivates an adherent racist.Mr. Head, a self-proclaimed missionary, plans on taking his grandson Nelson to Atlanta City.Intending to introduce Nelson to the focal point of his prejudice. However, Mr. Heads sub- conscious motives are to have Nelson believe his grandfathers existence in his life is indispensable. He hopes Nelson dependency upon him strengthens. Doing so would not only make himself feel superior but also satisfy his own dependency needs.Hes content with the thought once Nelson has had the opportunity in experiencing the city he will “be content to stay at home for the rest of his life” (251). His only comforting thoughts, as he lay to sleep before the day of the trip, were not of turning Nelson into a racist, but “thinking how the boy would at last find out that he was not as smart as he thought he was.” Degradation towards anyone, including his own grandson, is another way by which Mr.Head can feel minutely satisfied with himself. He welcomes and anticipates the point in which Nelson questions his own intelligence. Towards the beginning of the story Mr. Head belittles Nelsons rationalizing once arriving in the city “he willve been there twict,”(250) considering Atlanta was his birth place. Logically Nelson made sense, nevertheless “Mr. Head had contradicted him.” (250) Irony, an element of fiction, is first illustrated here as Mr. Head continuously accuses Nelson of being ignorant, yet he is the one displaying his ignorance in every word he speaks.

OConners usage of the word “ignorant” when Mr. Head puts Nelson down, may also have some degree of Ironic significance. In mid-century when this story, I believe, was written. The definition of “nigger” was closely related to the word ignorant, compared to todays defined derogatory term. OConners multi-road intents are not, as always, clearly seen or can be easily stated. The relation between Mr. Heads ignorant actions, and the point he calls Nelson ignorant are aspects far too coincidental to ignore. In calling Nelson ignorant he is calling Nelson what he expressively hates. Consequently lessening himself, given that Nelson is what Mr. Head has made of him in raising him. Awaiting for the train to stop for them, the day of the trip, Mr. Head secretly fears it will not do so, “which case, he knew Nelson would say, ” I never thought no train would stop for you.” (252) As they walked down the aisle of the car train, his actions exhibited were just that of what he dreading just a few seconds prior.He lacked respect for any around him. Although it was early morning and people were sleeping, Mr. Head wasnt aware or simply didnt care, he spoke in his regular voice, too loud for this time. While in motion to the city, a procession proceeded down the aisle where Mr. Head and Nelson sat. Nelson could not distinguish th Nelson I am aware OConner didnt intend to apply any one theme to this story as well as any of her other works, but I Racism is simply another form for Mr. Head to elevate himself, while putting others down. This form, however, Mr. Head had been accustomed to using through his entire life.Mr. Head didnt distinguish “niggers” from his own grandson in actuality he placed them in the same category when he said, “this is where you were born-right here with all these niggers.” Racism is a form of denouncing an entire culture placing Nelson right along side with those he dislikes, hes either not a racist or he is denouncing his own culture as well as himself from being suitable not only from his short be comings but as his cultures. Mr. Heads racism I not only see as his tool for self-gratification but as a disguise in which he uses to hide feelings of contempt towards all around him.

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