Identity studies in African-American literature, over time, have depicted the interaction between black and white Americans and the connectedness of black Americans to their root. This study has explored the theme of identity as influenced by the milieu to represent the place of African-Americans within the larger American society in relation to racism, segregation, culture, migration and social equality. However, most of the analyses of the theme of identity in African-American studies have examined identity either in relation to racism or as a reconnection to the African root. This study analyzes identity from another dimension. It explores identity as an inevitable imposition, an obligation made on the individual by forces, societal or supernatural, which are beyond their control and from which they have no power of escape, thus, making the individual a pharmakos of a destined self. In analyzing Isidore Okpewho’s Call Me By My Rightful Name and Richard Wright’s Native Son, this study, therefore, based on discourse analysisand identity theory, sets out to investigate how social structures impact on the structures of self, and the internal dynamics of self-processes as these impact on social behavior in the micro and macro units of action within the texts and its representation in language.
BACKGROUND TO THE STUDY
African-American literature is dominated by the attempt of writers of African descent to represent in narratives, the historical experiences of African-Americans in a color-coded American culture. It represents experiences spanning the period of traumatic slavery, through the harsh Jim Crow racial segregation law, to the black exodus to Africa initiated by Marcus Garvey and some other black activists. African-American literature, therefore, depicts the interaction between black and white Americans and the connectedness of black Americans to their root. It explores themes that are influenced by the milieu that gave rise to it. Such themes include the place of the African-Americans within the larger American society, racism, segregation, culture, migration and social equality. Also, within the African-American discourse, the issue of identity has become a recurring problem for individual American, African-American and the American nation at large.
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