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Analysis of “Between The World and Me” by Ta-Nehisi Coates

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    Ta-Nehisi Coates’ intriguing book Between The World and Me describes the difference between the American Dream and his dream. He writes this letter to warn his son about the real world and how dangerous it is for a person like him. Coates purpose is to clarify upon the readers the idea that colored people have struggled and continue to struggle as the world progresses. He creates a relatable tone in order to convey to his readers the fact that there’s always a separation between people, with his use of ethos, pathos, logos, allusions, and irony.

    Coates begins his book by responding to the question of “why he felt that white America’s progress, or rather the progress of those American’s who believed that they are white, was built on looting and violence.” He uses logical reasoning to prove that Americans are the ones who have created this division between races. “… Lincoln truly meant ‘government of the people’ but what our country has throughout history, taken the political term “people” to actually mean” (6). Here, Coates examines Lincoln’s speech and creates the ethos by using logical reasoning to draw the audience into believing that they truly are different. He also mentions to “Never forget that for 250 years black people were born in chains whole generations followed by more generations who knew nothing but chains” (70). Coates exemplifies to the audience that we must never forget that black people were held captive in slavery. He uses allusion to establish ethos on his knowledge of slavery.

    Moving on to part two, Coates uses irony to discuss that sometimes even our people act against us: “The officer who killed Prince Jones was black. The politicians who empowered this officer to kill were black” (83). One of his really good friends was killed and although he was rich, smart, and high class, he was mistaken and stereotyped to be a bad person. This quote explains that the police are acting on how society wants them to act even if it means backstabbing their own race. Coates draws attention to the reader by saying that black people are killing black people. In his neighborhood they took their safety more seriously than anything else, Coates said “According to this theory “safety” was a higher value than justice, perhaps the highest value. I understood” (84). He acknowledges that safety and the protection of others is more valuable than making things right. Coates provides logical reasoning once again to demonstrate that even though you are higher class, if you are black, you have to value your safety first because your body can be in danger at any time.

    Later on Coates explains that you had to be both smart in school and in the streets to survive. You could be very intelligent in school, but you also have to figure out how to act when you are out in the streets because one wrong act can take your life. He gives an example of how he could have lost his body and his son’s body just by trying to defend him. Coates also relates to a talk with Dr. Jones, his friend’s mother. Dr. Jones was smart and lived in a decent place like her son, but even then Prince Jones wasn’t saved from the stereotypical society and it left her and everyone else that knew him in shock: “It was unlike anything I had felt before, it was extremely physically painful. So much so that whenever a thought of him would come to mind, all I could do was pray and ask for mercy. I thought I was going to lose my mind and go crazy. I felt sick. I felt like I was dying” (144). Prince’s mother explains how hurt she was to have lost a really good person. Dr. Jones creates an emotional connection with the audience to show how it feels to miss someone they love knowing that they weren’t the one that was supposed to die. At this point there is nothing you can do, but hope for justice. However during that time fairness wasn’t present, Coates gives an example, “She spoke like an American, with the same expectations of fairness, even fairness belated and begrudged, that she took in medical school all those years” (144). Everyone wants to live the American dream, but what does that really mean? It doesn’t mean freedom, justice, or equality. The colored people have been fighting for years in order to get those “special values”, but to this day unfairness still happens.

    Coates shares all these events that happened in his life to create an interpretation of how the world really is. As much as he tries to protect himself or his son, it just puts them more in danger of losing his body. In the end the American dream is up to you to define.

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