Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man ( James Weldon Johnson )

4 April 2015
Examines use of irony in portrayal of mixed-race character’s awakening in novel based on author’s life.

James Weldon Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man is a book of irony upon irony. Not a true autobiography but a novel based loosely on the author’s life, the book portrays the life of a man of mixed black and white heritage who undergoes a series of unexpected reversals of consciousness largely based on his racial experiences. The protagonist appears to be white and is raised as a white of some socioeconomic privilege. His primary awakenings take him from his white upbringing into the world of blacks, where he comes to recognize and appreciate his black heritage, and finally back to the white world after his abandonment of that black heritage. Ironically, however, this series of awakenings leaves the protagonist as confused about his identity at the end of the book as he was in the beginning.

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The bulk of the book’s ironies are rooted in the protagonist’s almost..

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