Human Agency Definition

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Throughout history, society has often placed unfair restrictions on different people based on intrinsic characteristics including gender, race, and religion. Despite these restrictions, there have been prominent figures like Martin Luther King Jr and Helen Keller who highlight the importance human agency. In the case of Samuel Sheldon’s Lonely Londoners and Michelle Cliff’s Abeng, human agency shares a common meaning which is the capacity for humans to act independently considering the inherent constraints society places upon them. Both authors explore this concept of human agency by scrutinizing the constraints that their characters face, most notably society’s perception of race and the irony in gender roles for Moses and Clare. Although…show more content…
In particular, much of the oppression Moses and other characters faced in Lonely Londoners was derived from the unfair racial perceptions of people from the West Indies. Even though their rationale for moving to London was to harmlessly pursue labor, they were still victims of discrimination. At the beginning, when Tolroy and Tanty first arrived in England, Tanty was heavily questioned by a white reporter on her reasons for being in London: “‘Are you going to live in London?... but can you tell my why so many people are leaving Jamaica and coming to London?... Tell me madam, what will you do in London?’”(Selvon 31). The lengthy repetition of questions illustrates how robotic the reporter sounds and his intention of surgically retrieving answers from Tanty rather than having a conversation, as if she is incapable of having one. Specifically, the fact that the reporter questions what Tanty will do in London despite it being one of the most industrialized and populated cities in the world at the time demonstrates the prejudice that white people have against people of color, even in such a city that claims to be so diverse and inclusive of everyone. There is still underlying animosity towards people of the West Indies which is observed through the reporters confusion of their purpose in London which…show more content…
The traditional narrative of gender roles encompasses the idea that women are the ones that are sexually desired by men, who are considered to be dominant in many cases. However, Moses along with other black men are exploited by women in London due to their race and passive nature. Selvon writes, “Moses ask a cat one night and she tell him how the black boys so nice and could give [white women] plenty of thrills people wouldn’t believe or else they would cork their ears and say they don’t want to know but the higher the society the higher the kicks they want”(Selvon 108-109). Black men are described as “nice” in terms of white women’s fetishes and seemingly exist only to give them “thrills.” Selvon also writes without any sort of punctuation in the passage which dramatically speeds the pace of the passage to almost a blur. This stream of consciousness that mimics the rapid thoughts that passes by one’s mind puts a lot less emphasis on how white women in London objectify black men and only value them to fulfill their fetishes. The manner that Selvon’s lack of punctuation speeds up the passage which overlooks important points like women sexually objectifying black men parallels how people like Moses overlook the fact that women soley perceive him as merely a sexual
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