This essay is a critical comparison of Adrienne Rich's "When we Dead Awaken: Writing as Revision," and Ralph Ellison's "Extravagance of Laughter."

Essay by hanadrCollege, UndergraduateA+, August 2002

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Adrienne Rich vs. Ralph Ellison

Adrienne Rich and Ralph Ellison's essays both refer to their means of resistance to the oppression they experience in their lives. Rich's "When We Dead Awaken: Writing as Re-Vision" describes her experiences as a female writer overwhelmed by the "patriarchy" in the "masculine world of the academy."(Rich 557) Ellison's essay, "An Extravagance of Laughter," is an account of his life as an African American in the largely white population of New York City. Throughout both of their essays, Rich and Ellison discuss their different means of dealing with the oppression they encounter in their lives. Rich's concept of "revision" allows her to see the past and deal with her present situation accordingly; thus she can improve upon her future by learning from the past. Ellison's laughter allows him to cope with the discrimination and suppression of African Americans. Laughter is Ellison's way of surpassing his reality.

Unlike Adrienne Rich, Ellison's laughter doesn't transform his reality. His laughter transcends his reality.

Laughter is Ellison's way of coping with his reality. His means of dealing doesn't allow him to transform his reality, since it is not possible. Laughter is Ellison's way of dealing with the reality he knows, since he cannot alter his reality. His knowledge of the laughing barrels certainly does not transform the white society to equal his oppressed African American society. It may, in fact be said that laughing barrels made the white society resent the black society's power over them with their infectious laughter, as illustrated by the following quote.

"...the uproar from the laughing-barrels could become so contagious and irresistible that any whites who were so unfortunate as to be caught near the explosions of laughter would find themselves compelled to join in - and this included even such...