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Literature Essay on Notebook of a Return to the Native Land



Write a literature essay on the “Representation of Race in Aime Cesaire’s “Notebook of a Return to the Native Land”


Representation of Race in Aime Cesaire’s “Notebook of a Return to the Native Land
Aime Cesaire is considered the father of black revolutionary against the French colonization and racism from the 1930s. His literary works are regarded as a masterpiece for not only his strong condemn against the implementation of colonization on African-American people or differentiation with the western culture, but also for his creative engagement of strong vocabulary and metaphors. Through his much-celebrated poem – "Notebook of a Return to the Native Land," he had built the path for the black community movement that represents the Caribbean and African literature, culture, art, music, and theatre. This literature essay will analyze the representation of race and its background in Cesaire's "Notebook" poem with its background and underneath analysis.

“At the end of daybreak,

On this very fragile earth thickness exceeded

In a humiliating way by its grandiose future –” (Césaire, 3)

Humility against a race is a common nature on Earth which leads us to have enmity against our species with the name of color, gender, culture, sex, race, and religion. “Notebook of a Return to the Native Land” is a masterpiece work by Aime Cesaire. It bears a significant amount of cultural and beauty of the author's native land. Cesaire was a part of the revolution against French racism and colonialism during the 1930s to 1950s that have been expressed in the poem. It broke as a literary movement among the French-speaking Caribbean and African people from Paris. The poem is about a person from their native land of the Caribbean residing outside of his homeland. He is living in Paris and absorbing the stereotypical notions from his residents over there. The anger and ignorance towards the black community in a crowded city make the narrator suffocated and dreaming about the long-time regression and oppression against the African community. The poet was harsh in his portrayal of the black community and compare them with insects (Chakrabarti, 165). It broke his heart and started reciting a metaphor that represents the harsh truth from society. The main motive of the poem is to break free from the racist beliefs and ‘Victorian moral’ values of the French community that makes the African community obscure from society. Cesaire has written the poem during that time where the author represents black 'personality' and black 'intellectual' in rejecting the social, political, and moral domination from the western white population.

The “Notebook of a Return to the Native Land” has a blend of unusual contrast of metaphor and object, reformation of old words into new word and meaning, rhythm, and reaching the powerful intellectual side of the black literature and culture (Césaire). In this poem, the author has represented the racial problems with accurate enunciation into a lyrical form. It is highly paradoxical and criticized against the decolonization that is stereotyping and restricting the black community from expressing their beliefs and intellect. The background of the poem is demanding the society to understand the normalize terms and metaphor that has been used against the black community to make them lower to the French community. The poem is a long sketch on the circumstantial aspect of understanding a historic idea with the author's poetic movement through a long period. The underlying aspect of the poem is related to the conjugation of time and race that will eventually turn the whole discussion into a longer period or which is not 'ephemeral' (Melas, 469-493). It erupted as a part of the on-going literary movement of exploring and practices of the intellectual side of the black community in criticizing the hostile society related to the colonization from the French.

“… the only cry you would have wanted to hear because

You feel it alone belongs to this town;” (Césaire, 4)

The overcrowded, astonishing town, where the people are suffering from hatred, revolt, poverty, and hunger. Cesaire portrays the situation of the black community in the growing economy of the western towns, where they are often the subject of humiliation and barred from assessing any route that ensures a good living. It makes them differentiated from their town and provokes them to practice whatever the colonialism has implied on the people. Cesaire claimed that for the first time, society is observing the black community with its true essence without any societal prejudice or reticence. The rhythmic appearance of the poem justifies the background of the black community from the native land of the narrator and the beautification of his native land. It explains that nature is far away from racism and discrimination. Nature is different from place to place but also acceptable in every form. People cannot be as wise as nature to accept humanity over race, gender, ethnicity, and nationality. The poem is a crucial representation of the human perspective that generates a horrific approach towards other communities for the sake of skin color and race.

In the line, “- me on a road, a child, chewing sugar cane root” (Césaire, 25), the author explained a stereotypical vision of an African child who is standing on a road, barefoot and chewing sugar cane and gazing at nowhere. It describes the native land of the narrator who has returned to his homeland. On one hand, it explains the great relief and satisfaction of seeing a comforting vision of his place. On the other hand, the poet explains "- a dragged man on a blood-spattered road a rope around his neck" (Césaire, 25), it explains about the dead bodies of black people that have no price in the face of the broader society. The black people have been denoted as slaves and life with no worth. It makes their whole life guilt and fear towards people with different skin colors. The death of a black man makes the narrator having a crown on his forehead. As it was intended and there is no space for denying the fate of their lives. Cesaire started writing "Notebook of a Return to the Native Land," where he depicts a young man returning to his hometown in Martinique from Europe and explains the ideas that he developed from his stay in Paris.

The poem has a metaphor that is the central meaning behind the long rhythmic expression from Cesaire. It explains that the person who moved back from Paris to his native town felt that he is still captured within the perception of his European residents. The narrator of the poem wants the change the societal changes to his black community to the native town. As the narrator is not definite about the starting of his journey in changing the societal and political perception towards the black community, he explains various metaphors in influencing his people to understand the existing injustice and societal norms against their culture, identity, and race that makes them a slave to the colonization. The narrator knew that the people from his community needs a revolution that will give them freedom from western culture and live with their proud African heritage. The narrator, on one hand, is hopeful and also despair with the social situation, on the other hand, he is surrounded by various masks or metaphors that are deep-rooted with his community.

“In this inert town, this desolate throng under the sun,

Not connected with anything that is expressed, asserted,

Released in broad earth daylight, it's own." (Césaire, 5)

In the overcrowded city of Paris, they feel isolated, detached, and differentiated. Even the whitewashed stone figures and gargoyles in Paris are more complied with the white community. Cesaire became desperate at the final stages of the poem, where he simply used the words like 'nigger scum,' 'malarial blood,' 'drunken feet,' 'whips and scrofula,' 'suicide,' 'shackles,' etcetera as a strong metaphoric gesture towards the injustice playing around the black community from a long period. The poem has explained the detachment with the African-Caribbean community with the French white community for the racial differences. The 'rhythmical' flow of the poem increased concern among the intellectual community at that time who regarded Cesaire handled the French language and verse in his "Notebook" poem that no other French poet can do (Snyder, 197-212). However, the resentment erupted from the linear representation of the injustice against the black community with a series of well-written metaphoric words in a smug atmosphere.

“At the peak of its ascent, joys burst like a cloud.” (Césaire, 11), the songs from the black community rolls among their people with joy and encouragement. The song does not have any end. However, it changes its tone with the fear of being differentiated and discriminated against. It expresses anxiety and returns to the tunnel with fire and anguish. Cesaire has expressed their words in a circumstantial manner (McIntosh, 137-183). As they are now forgetting about dreams but it still feels like living in a dream. The line of "and you drink and you shout and you sing as in a dream" (Césaire, 11), makes them living in fear of being alone and different from the western white community. Their unfinished songs make their eyes red like rose petals, dreams are feeling like medicines, and the sunset looks like a sapodilla every day. It makes a unique world where they live with their heritage, culture, and longing for sharing their dreams with others to get relief from the guilt and fear of not getting included in society. It enhanced a deep regret and fear within them and become an eye for all wrong doings without having any guilt to the society.

“At the end of daybreak, the extreme, deceptive desolate eschar on the wound of the waters.” (Césaire, 2). The poem has been shown how the black community has suffered during the French encounter. The martyrs did not get the recognition and their blood had been fade away. The black community has suffered a lot and did not get recognition properly. It has been expressed through his Notebook poem, about the domination that was experienced by the narrator, and could not become free from the fear of oppression even after reaching his native land. Poets such as Aime Cesaire, considered literature as a ‘social function’ that has the power of changing the societal norms (Gontier, 377-379). It has been represented that Cesaire was passionate about the history of the black race and its inspiration led him to develop an agitated side in making an impact on society (Irele, 246-247). “Notebook” poem has been regarded as a masterpiece for a very long time and it developed the concept of racial differences at a western community that has made the black community to hide their inherence and perform the Victorian culture.

In the line “It crawls on its hands without the slightest desire to drill the sky with a stature of protest” (Césaire, 12), the author described the demeaning eyes of the surrounding towards the black community that made them not wondering about the desire of touching the sky. The fire, the soil, and the feet of those people are suffering in their town. It explains a great account of the town as an individual that stands high and wondering beyond their boundaries, far from their corridors, courtyards, and shutters. The poem represented the present and past scenario among the black population facing injustice and oppression from the French colonization and racism (Pope, 540-541). It made them feel guilt with the overpowering hatred that flows through the potholes where it stays longingly. The poet wanted to fight for ensuring equality and liberty to the black individuals (Miles, 1-8). “the river of life desperately torpid in its bed” (Césaire, 12) - their dreams are becoming empty, disturbing, and hesitant.

The representation of a particular community has always been raised against societal injustice and political and cultural oppression. Cesaire had expressed his feeling through the Notebook poem, where he narrated about a person that reflects his earlier age of facing racial discrimination. The poem expressed demeaning words against the black community that expressed the horrific nature of the discrimination against them. "Notebook" is the best representation of this movement and his historic background.

Works Cited
Césaire, Aimé. Notebook of a Return to the Native Land. Wesleyan University Press, 2001.

Chakrabarti, Dipa. “Understanding Notebook of a Return to My Native Land by AiméCésaire and the Making of the Francophone Caribbean Literature.” Submission Guidelines and Subscription, vol. 15, 2019, pp. 163–70.

Gontier, Fernande. “AIMÉ CESAIRÉ: Poet & Politician.” Negro History Bulletin, vol. 38, no. 3, JSTOR, 1975, pp. 377–79.

Irele, F. Abiola. “Homage to Aime Cesaire, Our Grand Man of Letters!” Journal of the African Literature Association, vol. 1, no. 1, Taylor & Francis, 2006, pp. 246–47.

McIntosh, Malachi. “Migrants as Martyrs: Notebook of a Return to Native Land, The Ripening, I Am a Martinican Woman.” Emigration and Caribbean Literature, Springer, 2015, pp. 137–83.

Melas, Natalie. “Poetry’s Circumstance and Racial Time: Aimé Césaire, 1935–1945.” South Atlantic Quarterly, vol. 115, no. 3, Duke University Press, 2016, pp. 469–93.

Miles, William F. S. “Aimé Césaire as Poet, Rebel, Statesman.” French Politics, Culture & Society, vol. 27, no. 3, Berghahn Journals, 2009, pp. 1–8.

Pope, Jacquelyn. “Notebook of a Return to the Native Land.” Callaloo, vol. 26, no. 2, Johns Hopkins University Press, 2003, pp. 540–41.

Snyder, Emile. “A Reading of Aimé Césaire’s" Return to My Native Land".” L’Esprit Créateur, vol. 10, no. 3, JSTOR, 1970, pp. 197–212.


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