Between the World and Me Vs My Dungeon Shook – FINAL ESSAY ENG 848

Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates is only 152 pages, but it is still treated as a major literary work by students and writers even after the demise of its author. In the recent past, Coates has remained famous as one of the best essayists of his generation throughout the United States of America. Several literary pieces are examined based on timeliness, but a book like Between the Work and Me is always timely because it is a work of revelatory honesty and rare beauty. Between the World and Me by Coates is a six-chapter letter written to Samori, the author’s fifteen-year-old son (Hamilton 2015). The framing of Between the World and Me is a good reverence to My Dungeon Shook by Baldwin James. As opposed to Coates’ book, Between the World and Me, My Dungeon Shook by Baldwin is just a few pages, but it comprises of words of wisdom (Baldwin 1963). Between the World and Me and My Dungeon Shook have got a number of similarities and differences.

Ta-Nehisi’s book, Between the World and Me, talks about the shameful foundation of the American Dream. According to Coates, the American dream is only for the whites and is built on oppression of blacks. Baldwin has written My Dungeon Shook from a narrow vantage point where he has played the role of a traditional thinker concerned with things in the society that should be corrected (English Notes for University Students 2014). He writes his book at a time when racism is very rampant in the United States and every writer is forced to write about it.

Every time a person reads Ta-Nehisi Coates’ letter, Between the World and Me, he or she will always think of My Dungeon Shook by James Baldwin. Ta-Nehisi Coates is known as one good writer who has filled the intellectual void that was created following Baldwin’s death. The connection between Coates’ sentences and Baldwin’s statements is so strong that someone might think that My Dungeon Shook is a continuation of Between the World and Me. This is evident in the manner in which Coates has used purposeful homage to extend Baldwin’s work several years after his death. One notable similarity between the two books is how they have been structured. Like Baldwin has structured his letter to his nephew, Coates has framed his book as a formative letter to his son. Additionally, both Coates and Baldwin have used visceral and beautifully redemptive language in writing their books (Rollert 2015).

When comparing Coates’ book with that of Baldwin, it is important to examine how the literary pieces of the two authors have been received and the exact source of their lasting legacy. In My Dungeon Shook, Baldwin maintains that the ravenous expedition for power ideally lies on the dilemma that currently exists in the American society. For this reason, Baldwin has recognized that the most essential building block of American history is the search for power. He states that the American society is revolving and the question of segregation is just hard to defend. Baldwin goes ahead to explain that a Negro is completely omitted in the American dream, and it is only possible to realize this dream people ignore the recreated American myths (Baldwin 1963).

In structure and language, Coates has picked up the American dream where from where Baldwin left it. Throughout Between the World and Me, Coates refers to dreamers as the whites who believe in the American myths, and who do not understand the violence upon which the United States was founded. Although many praise Coates’ piece of literature as a good book, some people feel that it does not provide any solution to race problems that are currently faced in America. However, it is very clear that both Coates and Baldwin offer solution to the problem on race relations in America.

Both My Dungeon Shook and Between the World and Me call for rewriting of history. Specifically, Baldwin calls for rewriting of American history for both the white who do not effectively understand themselves and for the liberation of the Negro. In Coates’ opinion, both reparations and rewriting of American history should be changed. According to Coates, people who think that they are whites have done very negative things to America and to the world as a whole. Therefore, it is important that they change their way of thinking to avoid oppression of the non-whites. Another similarity is the content of Coates’ and Baldwin’s books where they both offer counsel and advice to their sons on what they can do make changes to the current American policy (Rollert 2015).

Apart from the similarities described above, Between the World and Me and My Dungeon Shook have got significant differences. Baldwin is hopeful that an American movement to awaken the Dreamers will soon come to pass (Baldwin 1963). However, Coates is doubtful about feasibility of the American movement and warns his son against planning his life around such kind of imaginations. Baldwin fails to agree with Coates on the meaning of white blindness to black audiences of their books. Coates feels that final liberation for the oppressed in America will only occur if the Dreamers who think they are whites wake up and become democratic thinkers. He however advises Samori not to make the awakening the purpose for his life. Conversely, Baldwin thinks that his son will live to see the awakening dream come to pass (English Notes for University Students 2014).

A significant formative moment of growing up is characterized by the idea that parents have an obligation of raising their children, and during this time, they have to take various actions and make numerous decisions. Between the World and Me clearly reveals this because it describes everything around Ta-Nahisis Coates and Samori Coates. Coates states that black people love their children with a lot of passion and they would not be happy to see their children suffer on the streets formed by Americans. Baldwin completely disagrees with Coates’ opinions, claiming that children of black people are not likely to suffer following the awakening movement.

Even though Baldwin is addressing his letter to his nephew, he emphasizes on the pain caused by American notions of injustice. He explains that the black people are fond of defying the odds and they should try to defeat the expectations of those trying to control and defeat them. Coates however focuses on the opposite side of the story as he addresses his letter to his son. Instead if encouraging his son to awaken his own power, Coates explains that racial injustice in America will not fade, and it is a very foolish thing to believe that one person will be able to make a change. He also tells his son why it is dangerous to believe in the American dream. Coates believes that America is historically known for its intention to destroy the black people (Rollert 2015).

Between the World and Me by Coates is not a work of scholarship despite the fact that it bears a great influence on all things the same way scholarly work may do. The book anticipates what will come to happen in future and that is still not known. Coates states that race is a construct that has been developed with a particular purpose. Between the World and Me is a book that offers a good breath of knowledge, but Baldwin’s voice is more thunderous and inquisitive (Hamilton 2015).

In My Dungeon Shook, Baldwin’s painful self-examination has led to the focus on social movements and collective action (Baldwin 1963). On the contrary, Coates’ self-absorption that is characterized by fear has led to flight to safety and escape. Following close analysis, it is evident that Coates will continue to support the Black and White Neo-liberals, and he is likely to distract from the necessary vision and courage needed in the current catastrophic times. In the present age of superficial spectacle, many philosophers are surprised with Coates’ views as many people continue to hunger and long for political engagement of Baldwin. This point tends to explain why Baldwin’s text would be more valuable than Coates in the current society.


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