Sample Scholarship Essays

Black Boy

Black Boy Annonymous Behind every great painting, symphony, piece of literature, or other artwork there hides a powerful emotion that fuels the artist from start to completion. When we look at a painting, we are not just seeing colored pigment suspended in oil on a stretched canvas, we are taking a close look into the heart and soul of the creator of that painting. Every piece of art is also a piece of the artist. One need only glance at one of the many self-portraits of Van Gogh to see a glimpse into his life and his inner turmoil. Similarly, one must only read the early and late poetry of Dante to gain insight into his mind, his passions, and, ultimately, his soul, and the way in which he changed throughout his life. To understand Dante’s poetry requires us to understand his motivations.

Throughout his life and career, Dante’s primary motivation was always love. As Dante grew older, his ideas about love and life changed and these changes are reflected in his poetry. In particular, Dante’s ideas of love were focused upon a single person in his life: Beatrice. Dante first saw Beatrice when he was only 9 years old (Dinsmore 69). She became his inspiration for almost every major work he created and he viewed her as his savior, first temporally and later spiritually (Fergusson 165, Inf.

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II, 109-114). His La Vita Nuova is a collection of poems and prose commentary inspired by Beatrice and collected after her death in 1290. Dante’s love, however, was unrequited, as he himself says in a conversation with a lady recounted in La Vita Nuova: “What purpose have you in loving this lady, when you cannot bear her presence? Tell us about it, because surely the purpose of such love must be very strange.” And when she had said this, not merely she but all the ladies showed by their expressions that they were awaiting my answer. Then I said to them: “The ultimate desire of my love was only the salutation of this lady [Beatrice] whom I suppose you refer to, and in it dwelt all my happiness, because it was the consummation of all my hopes.” (Gilbert 142). As with many artists, the pain of an unfulfilled and unattainable love drove them to a greatness that they perhaps would never have achieved had it not been for the emotional torment that they endured. It is perfectly clear that Dante loved and adored Beatrice. In fact, there is reason to believe that she knew of this “devotion of his, but she [showed] no desire for it, although she [did] object to his conduct with another woman” (Ibid.). We can imagine how profound a role Dante’s almost fanatical obsession played in his writings.

As much as an effect her life had upon Dante’s, Beatrice’s death may have been an even greater effect upon his literary endeavors. In the last chapter of the Vita Nuova, Dante determines to write about Beatrice “that which has never been written of any other woman.” Over two decades later, he made good on this promise with the Divine Comedy. It is a testament both to his skill as a poet and to his love for Beatrice that this poem is, after 700 years, still very well known and widely read. Perhaps one of the things that makes the poem so popular still is that almost everyone can relate to the way Dante feels about Beatrice. Beatrice, to Dante, symbolizes everything that is right in the world; all the good and hope and wonder that exists.

He places her upon a pedestal of glass and hopes to God that it will not shatter. In order to fully understand Dante’s poetic conversion, we must first look at what life events had taken place that may have changed his outlook. Before beginning his Divine Comedy, Dante suffered several set backs in his life. The death of Beatrice in 1290 deeply wounded him, as did his exile from Florence due to the political intrigue in the city (Priest 8). Dante, while not becoming disillusioned with the Catholic Church as an institution, was also firmly opposed to the attempts by the papacy to exercise temporal power in Italy (Op.

Cit. 11-12). Dante became an outcast from this home and his family; his property was seized by the government; he was branded as a traitor by the government he once served; he was accused of being unfaithful to an institution that he revered; his object of adulation was taken away from him. Taken together, these events could do nothing but change Dante in some way. Dante found that he had less and less to live for in this world, thus he began to turn his eyes to what lay beyond this life.

The Divine Comedy is much more than just an homage to Beatrice or a physical description of hell; it is his confession and atonement (Freccero 186). The Divine Comedy is Dante’s Purgatory here on Earth. He is freely confesses the mistakes that he made, partly to free his conscious and explain, and partly as a warning to others who follow the same path that he did. Dante progressively becomes more aware of what is truly important and by looking at three of his major works, one can map Dante’s journey: Vita Nuevo, Convivo, and Divine Comedy. The Vita Nuevo was written rather early on in Dante’s life, when his head was full of ideas of courtly love (Op. Cit. 7) and he was completely engulfed by his love for Beatrice.

His earthly love, or lustful love, is transmitted through this work. Dante’s desires are clear, and they are more about temporal wants than eternal happiness. Beatrice’s death is a major blow to Dante and triggers a shift in his way of thinking. He seeks to abandon the memory of his love for Beatrice by “beginning .. to base his life and poetry on the foundations of philosophical truth. It initiates a line of poems, where beauty and truth contend, and where the sweet old life of the Vita Nuevo is shown to be struggling against the overpowering appeal of a rigorous and difficult new life” (Quinones 43-44).

Dante’s love is now given to “Lady Philosophy” (Op. Cit. 44) and it is further contended that “[n]ot only did philosophy become the supreme thing [for Dante], it soon became the only thing, occupying all of Dante’s thoughts” (Ibid.) Dante’s love affair with Philosophy was to culminate in the Convivo, a philosophical commentary that was left uncompleted at the time of his death. The Convivo was a necessary step for Dante in the journey away from the love poetry of his youth. The growth and maturation shown when the Vita Nuevo and Convivo are contrasted are striking, even though some of the Vita Nuevo did foreshadow his philosophical stances taken in Convivo (Op.

Cit. 45). What makes the Divine Comedy different from every other poem that Dante wrote is that fact that in the Comedy Dante “search[es] for the form to encompass his remarkably varied experience” (Op. Cit. 52).

Dante was the true embodiment of a scholar, and his interest and knowledge in all areas of literature and natural science is incredibly impressive (Priest 13). If the Vita Nuevo is a poem of earthly, temporal, and physical love, and the Convivo is a work of philosophical truth and intellectual love, then the Divine Comedy seeks to unite both of these ideas, along with the theological believes that Dante held so dear. Dante seeks to create a palinode, that is, he wishes to give his past work a new meaning by brining it into his present work. The Divine Comedy serves as the vessel for this palinode. John Freccero’s ideas are along much the same lines: When Dante quotes his earlier poetry in the Commedia, we are …

Black Boy

Growing up as a Negro in the South in the early 1900’s is not that easy, for some people tend to suffer different forms of oppression. In this case, it happens in the autobiography called Black Boy written by Richard Wright. The novel is set in the early part of the 1900’s, somewhere in deep Jim Crow South. Richard Wright, who is obviously the main character, is also the protagonist. The antagonist is no one person in particular, for it takes many different forms called “oppression” in general. The main character over comes this “oppression” by rebelling against the common roles of the black, Jim Crow society. Richard Wright’s character was affected in early childhood by the effects of societal oppression, but he became a great American author despite these negative factors in his life. Today everyone encounters some form of oppression. One of the forms Richard is encountering is called societal oppression. As an example, after Richard sees a “black” boy whipped by a “white” man, he asks his mother why did the incident happen. His mother says, ” The “white” man did not whip the “black” boyHe beat the “black” boy, ‘ “(31). This quote is showing racism, which is one way of society keeping Richard Wright, and all other blacks in the South down. Another example is when is at the rail road station with his mother, and as they are waiting for the train, he sees something he has never seen, “for the first time I noticed that there were two lines of people at the ticket window, a “white” line and a “black” line,” (55). This excerpt is demonstrating how this scene of Jim Crow laws is keeping a certain group of people apart, which is also another form of societal oppression. Societal oppression occurs again when Richard is “hanging” out with his friends, and their conversation with each other leads on to the subject of war. One of his friends really get into the subject and says, ” Yeah, they send you to war, make you lick them Germans, teach you how to fight and when you come back they scared of you,’ “(90). This quote means that the “white” people put the “black” people on the front line to defend our country, and when they come back, they can not accept them, therefore they oppress them in different ways, which is societal oppression. The last example happens when Richard wants to borrow a library card, and so he thinks about asking his boss. After thinking about it for a while, he knew he could not ask him, for he knows the boss is a Caucasian Baptist, and Richard thinks that he would not be able to accept the fact of a “black” boy, such as Richard, would want to read and cultivate his intelligence. This would be considered societal oppression, for he knows his boss does not want Richard to be enlightened with books, in turn keeping Richard away from the light of knowledge. These are examples of societal oppression that Richard Wright overcomes and rises to the top on his own. Internalized oppression is a hard thing to overcome. One of the ways Richard Wright is confronted with internalized oppression is when he sees a “black” boy being beaten by a “white” man, so he automatically thinks that the “white” man is the boys father. “Did not all fathers, like my father, have the right to beat their children? A paternal right was the only right, to my understanding” (31). This excerpt is showing internalized oppression, for he thinks it is okay for a parent to abuse their child, in turn having the child think that beating a child is okay, and only a parent can do the beating, which is completely wrong. Another case of internalized oppression occurs when Richard says a bad word, and then his Aunt Jody lectures him by saying, ” Richard, you are a very bad, bad boy,’ “(108). Later in the passage, he also says that he does not care that he is a “bad boy.” That states that Richard believes that he is a bad person, which means he is experiencing internalized oppression. Later in the novel, after Richard read some books, he then wants to use the words he has learned as weapons, but he could not, because by him using the words it frightened him. This is internalized oppression, for Richard thinks of the words as something sacred only white people can use. If he did use the words, he feels as though he may get into trouble. Later in the novel, Richard tries to identify himself with a book, but he feels guilty when he does so. Therefore he acts in way so the whites will not dislike him. It is an internal oppression, for he is keeping himself down by not physically expressing his feelings that he has received from the books he has read. All of the above, are examples of which later in the novel, Richard Wright conquers are of internalized oppression. The way Richard Wright overcomes this abstract oppression is reflected upon his personality, which helps him become that great American author. One of the examples to prove this true, occurs when it was Richard’s first day of school. “During that noon hour I learned all the four-letter words describing physiological sex functions, and discovered that I had know them beforeA tall black boy recited a long, funny piece of doggerel, replete with filth, describing the physiological relations between men and women, and I memorized it word for word after having heard it but once, “(32). This quote is showing how smart and quick-to-learn Richard is, which is a part of his personality and ability to understand . Another example happens when his Uncle Tom is about to whip Richard, so he shows the razors to his uncle. In a low voice Richard says, ” If you touch me, I’ll cut you! Maybe I’ll get cut too, but I’ll cut you, so help me God,’ “(175). This passage is revealing that Richard is rebellious by standing up for himself and confronting his uncle for something he did not do. Further on, when Richard is confronted with the fact that white people like Negroes who stole from them, than to know their own true self-worth. Richard is thinking, “But I, who stole nothing, who wanted to look them straight in the face, who wanted to talk and act like a man, inspired fear in them,” (219). This passage is demonstrating how bold and brave Richard is, for he wants to stand up for himself against a white man who looked down on him. Later in the novel, Richard is pondering on what he should do in his life. He knows he can not stay in the South and willingly be kicked as Shorty had done. He would rather die, then do what Shorty has already submitted to. This is showing how much strength and pride Richard has. These are all examples of Richard Wright’s character, that has helped him become the great author that he is. Societal oppression and internalized oppression has affected Richard Wright in his early childhood years. The negative factors he has overcame throughout his life, has contributed to his rise as a great American author. One of the many themes, in the novel is if you follow what you feel is wrong, then you may not be able to rise to the top. In “Black Boy,” Richard Wright did just the opposite. Instead of submitting, like everyone else, to the low life, Jim Crow laws were intended for, he has risen above those who already has submitted. Another universal theme is that if you believe that you can achieve in anything, most likely you will achieve in many things in life. In the novel at first, Richard did not believe he can do anything to improve his life. Once he started to believe he can do things on his own, he moved out of the South to become that great American author. These are the themes in the novel Black Boy, that can be used for everyday life, universally.


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