In the book Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin the reader can experience life on the other side of the color line through his words. John Griffin was an author who became another person so he could tell the story of being a black man in the 1950s south. He went to a dermatologist and took pills to darken his skin tone; he used a sun lamp to darken it more. With these methods he became black. He then traveled down to the south to live as an unemployed writer and experience first hand what the south was like for the black race.
He befriended most black people and was ignored by most white people.In the middle of the story he stops being black and whitens his skin, now he goes back and goes through the south as a white person. He is surprised how different he is treated. He can now no longer go into the black neighborhood but he can stay in the nicest white hotels and be treated like a person. He notices how people act differently towards him and how his emotions are always scared and uncertain on what to do.
Characters John Griffin, in the beginning of the story is a white man from a nice neighborhood with a wife and two kids. He is medium height but very large around the middle.He is a writer with a successful career. He has an adventurous spirit and likes to go far with his ideas and push things to the limits. He knows a lot about different subjects because he is after all a writer. With my decision to become a Negro I realized that I, a specialist in race issues, really knew nothing about the Negros real problem (Griffin 8).
John Griffin is a writer so throughout the story he is very descriptive and uses a lot of detailed explanations. In the beginning of his adventure he is very scared and intimidated about traveling into the south.He is scared about the people he will meet and also about how people will react to him. From the shadows, the figure of a white man emerged.
Should I nod and say Good Evening, or simply ignore him (Griffin 17). He soon realizes that there is a certain code that black people follow. So Griffin has to discover this code and follow it. He is treaty badly by white people and that is no surprise to him. He is stunned by their lack of sympathy for the black people.
At each bus stop, I sounded the buzzer, but the driver continued through the next two stops.He drove me eight full blocks past my original stop and pulled up only then for the white passengers (Griffin 48). Griffins moment of epiphany was when he realized that he was now a black man and that he had crossed the line and he could not go back in his mind. In the flood of light against the white tile, the face and shoulders of a stranger-a fierce, bald, very dark Negro-stared at me from the glass.
He in no way resembled me. The transformation was total and shocking. I had expected to see myself disguised, but this was something else.I was imprisoned by the flesh of an utter stranger, an unsympathetic one with whom I felt no kinship. All traces of the John Griffin I had been were wiped from existence.
Even the senses underwent a change so profound it filled me with distress. I looked into the mirror and saw reflected nothing of the white John Griffins past. No, the reflections led back to Africa, back to the shanties and the ghetto, back to the fruitless struggles against the mark of blackness. Suddenly, almost with no mental preparation, no advanced hint, it became clear and permeated my whole being.My inclination was to fight against it. I had gone too far.
I knew now that there is no such thing as a disguised white man, when the black wont rub off. The black man is wholly a Negro, regardless of what he once may have been. I was a newly created Negro who must go out that door and live in a world unfamiliar to me(Griffin 15). He realized when he realized when he was in the swamp, and he had no food, and no way to get anywhere he realized that this was because he was black. He did nothing to deserve the treatment he was given.
The color of his skin was determining his fate. ThemeThe theme of this book was a black man in a white mans world. John griffin wanted to go inside this world to find out what it was like. So he dressed up as a black man and started living as a black man.
Through the different experiences that he had he learned to cope with different things. He learned what happens when you are a black man with not many choices in life and what you need to do to live. He met a lot of different black people and white people and he learned about what they thought about each other. He saw the different lifestyles and throughout the book he lived the life of both a white man and a black man.In the book one can see that to be a black man one must have to be defensive and alert for whatever troubles come along. And in the story that white man had no trouble with the blacks unless they started it first and made a big deal about it.
When john Griffin went inside this world he found out a lot of things the good, the bad and that is the purpose of this book. Overall Opinion My overall opinion of the book is that it was good and it talked about a lot of very crucial and disturbing elements in our past. When this book was written in the 1960s there was a lot of troubling issues that were going on in the world about racial issues.This book opened the eyes of a lot of people and hopefully made them realize what was going on. The part of the book that I did not like was when in the story Griffin is tired of being a black man and changes back to white man. This I think says that he is a coward who cant stand being in the black world anymore because it is too hard.
When really the black man cant stop being black like how Griffin just stopped being white. This book was well written and very informative about the different issues that afflict our societys history.