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Stranger in the Village

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“Stranger in the Village”

In the essay “Stranger in the Village” the author tells about his experience in a small Swiss mountain village where he visited from America. In this very small secluded town populated by all white people the author is the only black person that the people of the village have ever seen. “From all available evidence no black man had ever set foot in this tiny Swiss village before I came,” (93). The author would stay in the village for a short stay and then go back to the US, but he often returned to work on his writings, due to the fact that the village had few distractions. Even though he is no longer a stranger to the village the natives still treat him as so. “Everyone in the village knows my name, though they scarcely ever use it,” (94).

The author likens his feelings of "loneliness" and being out of place in the tiny Swiss village to the black man’s general feeling of being a stranger in an unfamiliar world created by the white man. He says that a white man can never feel like a stranger where ever he goes due to the image portrayed as the white man’s virtue of his assumed eminence and position. This image was derived from the preverbal “white America”. The author is astonished that even in this secluded, somewhat sheltered town where typical American prejudice and stereotypes should not exist, they do. “There is a dreadful abyss between the streets in this village and the streets of the city in which I was born, between the children who shout Neger! Today and those who shouted Niger! Yesterday-the abyss is experience,” (97).

The author relates the village and the mindset of the villagers to early America and the mindset of early Americans. He also realized there is no European innocence, and the ideas which American beliefs are based on, originated from Europe. “For this village brings home to me this fact: that there was a day, and not really a very distant day, when Americans were scarcely Americans at all but discontented Europeans, facing a great unconquered continent and strolling, say, into a marketplace and seeing black men for the first time,” (98). The first response after seeing that is, this person is different than me therefore he is a “stranger” and we shall treat him as one.

The author also speaks about the “American Negro” and how unlike other black people in the world the “American Negro” has no other history than slavery, their past was taken right from them, at one blow. He asserts that the future is the only thing the American Negro has,

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