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August Wilson’s Idea of Race, Assimilation, Social Class and African American Identity in Radio Golf

  • Journal of Modern English Drama
  • Abbr : JMBARD
  • 2014, 27(2), pp.147-174
  • Publisher : 한국현대영미드라마학회
  • Research Area : Humanities > English Language and Literature > English Literature > Contemporary English Drama

Cho,Eun-Young 1

1전주대학교

Accredited

ABSTRACT

Focused on Radio Golf, this paper examines Wilson’s idea of race, assimilation, social class and African American identity. Written with the knowledge of his imminent death, the play has an urgency about articulating what Wilson has tried to express throughout his plays in the Cycle. In Radio Golf, the last play of the Cycle, Wilson portrays the world of black America under the heavy burden of history depicted in the Cycle. Race is the most identifiable and the most important element of one’s personality according to Wilson. Codes of color are so deeply inscribed in the fabric of American society, race determines one’s path through life and views of life. At the close of the 20th century, when opposing ideas of progress crashed, the need to resurrect Aunt Ester, became greater than ever. As the primal ancestor of all Wilson’s characters, she is the source of black identity and the embodiment of a past that must never be forgotten. There is a direct relationship between African American identity crisis and limited opportunity and poverty. Confronted with the overwhelming pressure of the dominant culture with its trappings of capitalism, blacks have abandoned blackness in favor of white behaviors and values. The decision exacerbates identity crises among blacks. Wilson insists that African Americans return to slave roots and retrieve their past. Wilson is uncompromising in regard to any attempt toward the melting-pot notion of assimilation. He thinks it not only hides America’s inability as a nation to deal with the presence of African Americans but also an attempt to strip black Americans of their cultural uniqueness and specificity, their history and black contribution to the nation. Throughout the cycle, he emphasizes that to achieve their wholeness, blacks must accept their otherness. In Radio Golf, Wilson insists, if remembered truly, black culture and history can nurture blacks and provide blacks a retreat from the vicious grip of capitalism and an internal compass for the future.

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