Examine the portrayal of the black community in Stamps-Arkansas
The community of Stamps have a very negative life, as there is segregation and discrimination against them, meaning that they can never earn enough money to support their families and so end up heavily in debt. They do still look at their way of life positively, and start each day as it comes- not looking to the future or the past. An example of this is the cotton pickers, who spend long hours out in the field, for low wages, but try to pick as much as possible to get them through the long winter, inevitably though, they end up having to borrow money and taking credit from stores like momma’s. Even though they are in debt and can never earn enough to last them through the year, they still have hope and always try as hard as possible to excel themselves and get do at least a good day’s work.
There is a lot of community spirit, though as it is so ‘close- knit’ and so people help each other to live and prosper. One example of this is momma, who extends free credit to all her customers and lets them pay it back when they have the cash, even though it could take months. As momma lets them buy their lunch or vittles on trust, it means that the pickers can at least have better lives in the short term as they have food and drink to get them through their long day.
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Another positive aspect of the community is that the people there in, still have their pride. This marks them out as humans who know who they are, and in face of all the discrimination, still stay proud. One example of this is when two visitors to the town walk into the store and uncle Willie pretends that he isn’t crippled by hiding his stick and leaning on the counter of the store to enable him not to slouch. He also expresses pride for his niece and nephew, so that the two visitors go back to their home city with a picture of a whole uncle Willie and his angelic nephew and niece who he was caring for.
The people of Stamps also show pride for themselves as they wash everyday and have a regular routine of the things that they have to do each day. Where as this white poor people, or ‘po- – ‘, as they are called in the book, don’t have this pride as they are unhappy and always look at the richer people to envy them, instead of looking at themselves to improve their lives. The po- – don’t wash for several days at a time, and for fun they throw insults at, or mock momma who has done nothing to them, but endures it still. This shows the black community as superior to them white one as they work together and stick up for each other instead of envying those less fortunate than themselves. The black community of stamps is also undivided, as it has no classes. So where as the whites have a noticeable first and second class, the blacks have none.
There is another positive aspect of the black community shown when the po- – kids come around to mock momma, but she just ignores them, and so they cannot win against her as she has shown her superiority by not losing her temper or joining them, but without being rude like them. It shows endurance brought about by their situation to make them wise and knowing when they see the white “superior” people.
Also, when Maya’s drawing is made in the dirt, momma and probably Maya too, hope that the principal and Mr McElroy see it as they are both community pillars who’s impressions and views are held in respect by the other people. If one of them saw the piece of art that was the area in front of momma’s house, then they would see what a faithful, diligent and industrious child Maya was and how well she had obviously been brought up, which reflected well on momma.
The positive and negative aspects of the black community in Stamps are reflected in the language as the cotton picker’s words never reflect how bad their lives really are but reflect the hope of what they want to become, or to pick as much cotton as possible so that they can feed their family through the winter. Also, in the first chapter, Maya is thinking of how good she will look in the silk dress, and, as she thinks of ‘good’ as ‘white’, she links her looks or appearance with white girls. She sees herself as ‘one of those cute little white girls who were everybody’s dream of what was right with the world,’ and so thinks of whites as good and so try’s to compare herself with them.
So, throughout the book and first five chapters, the language reflects how the character, or people, feels. This is shown with the cotton pickers who express hope to achieve to provide for their families, for Maya at the start to be a white girl or be as good as one, and it shows momma’s pride in herself and her store, family and life.