The essay I chose to critique was “The Fourth of July,” by Audre Lorde. This essay was astonishing. Shocked, angered, and upset, just some of the feelings I felt while engaging myself into this narrative. This essay left me wanting to fight for the main characters freedom, even though it took place in the 1960’s. Lorde did a really good job putting together this essay, and an amazing job portraying the message. It is as if there was a secret message behind this story. To me, the message was clear, we shouldn’t have to rely on our imagination to take us to the land of freedom; it should be granted to us.
Audre Lorde was a Caribbean-American writer and activist. She has been very active in active in civil rights, anti-war, and feminist movements (Kulii). In her essay, her family is on vacation in the Nation’s Capitol of Washington D.C. Washington D.C. is known to be a place of America’s triumphs in order to reach freedom for our country. This is a place that greatly expresses and celebrates our freedoms. Her family was on vacation here due to the fact that her sister was not allowed on her school trip to Washington. In the essay, Lorde states, “I learned later that Phyllis’s high school senior class trip had been to Washington, but the nuns had given her back her deposit in private, explaining to her that the class, all of whom were white, except Phyllis, would be staying in a hotel where she Phyllis ‘would not be happy,’ meaning, Daddy explained to her, also in private, that they did not rent rooms to Negroes.” Lorde’s family is a colored family living during the 1950’s (Lorde 240). Her sister was not allowed to go to the Capitol of our Nation, where “freedom” is supposed to be the most prominent trait of Washington D.C.
This essay is not a research based article, but does include a time period that is very critical to this story viewpoint. The Fourth of July was during the 60’s. During the 60’s it was a crucial moment of racism, slavery, and unequal rights. If you were to research the 60’s, this is exactly what you would discover from your results. Racism and unequal rights were taking over this little girl’s life because of the time period she was born into.
In the essay The Fourth of July, Audre Lorde conveys her anger toward American society. Her anger is caused by the racism and discrimination in her country. Although she clearly establishes her claim, Lorde uses irony to express her opinions to control her anger. The Fourth of July implies that Lorde most likely had a positive experience on the holiday and that there is a particular reason why she named her essay what she did. However, because she titles it The Fourth of July and quickly establishes her negative experiences there, the irony is created. She was trying to inform us about how bad racial segregation was, and how she wished she could change it.
Audre Lorde expresses her anger, embarrassment, and hurt when she had to come to the conclusion that she was not a free person, while on vacation in Washington D.C. on the Fourth of July. July Fourth is the day that America gained its independence or freedom. In the last paragraph of the essay she states, “The waitress was white, and the counter was white, and the ice cream I never ate in Washington D.C. …” this is when she came to the sad reality of her lack of freedom in her own country, where being white was the only thing that was important to most people (Lorde 239). The use of the word white in this paragraph as a use of verbal irony, in the fact that she realizes how trapped she in this world that is almost completely ran by white people and their ways of life at the time. Lorde’s character knew that the capital of the United States stood for freedom, liberty, and equality; therefore she thought racial discrimination would not occur there. However, Washington D.C. was part of the southern states, the ones that favored slavery after the Civil War, so racism was even stronger there. The author’s repetitive use of the word “white” to describe people, places, and things in Washington D.C. convey not only the setting and racial views of the city, but also Lorde’s anger towards her own nation’s capital.
As I read more into this narrative, I was captured by every little detail Lorde was mentioning to her audience. It was almost as if this story was real. Even though it is not a true story, this narrative was based on an example of what a little girl would feel like growing up during that time. The author uses extreme detail to make us feel as if it was real, but Lorde was not that little angered girl sitting in an all white café, trying to realize why this town was her nation’s capital.
I found this narrative really interesting, and I am so glad I decided to critique this essay. Not only did I learn multiple things about the time period, but I also learned more about how tough it was to be growing up during that time. Audre Lorde did an amazing job telling her audience the struggle and upsets that went on, and could have gone on for any young child.
Kulii, Beverly T. “Audre Lorde’s Life and Career.” Audre Lorde’s Life and Career. N.p., 1997. Web. 02 Dec. 2012. Lorde, Audre. The Fourth of July (n.d.): 239-42. Web. 1 Dec. 2012.