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Society's Child Essay

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B – Society’s Child

The text, which is an excerpt from “Society’s Child- My Autobiography” deals with the themes of saying your opinion and to stay true to yourself even though it’s hard and the racial discrimination that still occurred during the 1960’s. I shall elaborate on both of the themes and the way they’re presented.

The author of the text is the well-known musician, folksinger and writer Janis Ian who was born 1951. Janis Ian had her first hit single, “Society’s Child”, at the age of thirteen. The song is about an interracial romance forbidden by her mother and frowned upon by peers and teachers. The extract from her Autobiography shows her struggle at a concert, as she is fighting to keep on singing as some people at the concert repeatedly started chanting “Nigger lover” as she sang the song. She then runs of stage and into the restroom where she is crying and discussing with her promoter whether she should go back on stage or not. In the end she decides to stubbornly stick to her principles and walk up on stage and began to sing the song again from the top. She gathered the courage and stayed true to herself.

The topic is of universal interest. Not only because racism is something that still exists today, but also because the text represents a person with a lot of courage who can stand up for themselves and their principles –even if they’re on their own. Even though it is published in 2009 and discusses the events of the 1960’s oppression of the Afro-American, the topic is still relevant today for the majority of people in modern society. Fortunately the oppression is not as occurring today as it used to be in the 60’s, but racism is still relevant in modern society as it is.

Her aim is to enlighten and inform about the background of the song and the difficulties she has been through so that the reader can relate to her issue.
For instance she mentions that her intention with the song wasn’t received, as she wanted it to be. Janis Ian wants to convince the reader that she did the right thing by writing the song and explains her situation and intention with the song:
“The whole thing seemed pretty stupid to me, so I wrote about it to clear out my system. I never thought of it as a song about an interracial love affair gone bad. I just thought of it as a good song.” (P.2 L.88)

Janis Ian’s writing style is very emotional and rather straightforward. She wants the reader to get a sense of the atmosphere and feel sympathy, describing the events very emotionally. Furthermore her sentences are very short, very dramatic, which creates tension and makes the text exciting to read: “Oh, yeah, you bet I believed it. And I truly did not want to die. Onstage or off.” (P.3 L.154)
This quote gives us a good impression of the pressure that she was under during the concert.

Throughout the text her descriptions are full of details and she generally uses a lot of adjectives. For example the reader is informed about the movements, and the clothes that the promoter is wearing:
“I splashed water on my reddened nose, dried my face, the turned to look at him. The tears welled up again when I saw pity in his eyes.”(P.3 L.122)

In the text she uses Anaphor to emphasize how serious her situation was at the time and to make the reader aware of it:
“I was having a hit record. I was singing for people who wanted me dead. I was fifteen years old.” (P.2 L.30)
This is also a great example of her use of another rhetorical device, Pathos, which she constantly uses. In addition she uses repetition to emphasize the strong words: “Nigger lover! Nigger lover! Nigger lover!” in the very beginning of the text.
And also she repeats herself: “Yes, I was going to stand for that. Of course I was going to stand for it.” (P.4 L.246)

I really like her attitude and her opinion, that one should stand firm on your principles even though it is hard and you’re on your own. Even though that some people in the crowd almost broke her by chanting the words “ Nigger lover”, she didn’t break and she walked up on stage. I think that it takes a lot of courage to keep your head high after such a cruel event. Especially at the age of fifteen she didn’t break down. Also I find it very appealing that even though that she knew that if she changed only one word she could get away with the song and make a guaranteed number one record, she refused. More importantly she was true to herself and what the message of song originally was about. Sticking to you principles is of a great importance in life – and at the time interracial love was not accepted at all. And by releasing the song she brought the topic to discussion. That’s what I think is tremendously significant about this, that the taboo was brought up for discussion.…...

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