Cultural differences can exist between conflicting identities in groups and culture, or of an individual who is being influenced by a group or culture. In the poem "Theology" by Paul Laurence Dunbar and "Tableau" written by Countee Cullen, clashing cultural ideas as well as individuals influenced by different groups are present. These cultural differences create a disharmony in the society. In addition to Dunbar and Cullen, Mary Shelly reveals a character in her short story entitled "Frankenstein" who creates a discomfort for everyone, the character doesn't quite "fit in". Dunbar, Cullen and Shelly use opposing forces to represent cultural differences.
"Tableau" uses race to describe the cultural indifferences between black and white citizens. Cullen wrote "Tableau" during the Harlem Renaissance, also known as the "New Negro Movement". This era is extremely significant to the concept of cultural differences. During this time period there was a large amount of disunity between blacks and whites. Cullen writes about two boys, one black, one white, who walk "arm in arm". "From lowered blinds the dark folk stare And here the fair folk talk,
Indignant that these two should dare In unison to walk." (Cullen). Just in a couple lines you can interpret that these two boys walking together isn't something common, in fact its something to stare and talk about. Despite the negativity surrounding the boys, they don't seem to care "they pass, and see no wonder". Though Cullen wrote this during a time of separation between white and black society, I think his goal for "Tableau" was to prove how friendship has no color. Even though opposites can create discomfort they can also create strong bonds.
Very similar to Cullen, the author of "Theology, Paul Laurence Dunbar also had a childhood that was set in a time of cultural division, before Dunbar was born his parents were slaves. Dunbar's poem doesn't specifically take on cultural differences but does use opposites to express the same concept of disharmony. "Theology" is a four line poem about heave and hell, this is important because the title and the content share a biblical connection. The reason the biblical connection is significant is because Dunbar states "There is a hell, I'm quite as sure, for pray If there were not, where would my neighbours go?" (Dunbar). It only makes sense that Dunbar is referring to his "neighbours" as the people who enslaved his parents and treated him unfairly. The irony between this quote and the biblical connection would be that God said "love your neighbor as yourself". Therefore it was intentional that Dunbar made "Theology" the name of his poem and then said his neighbors belong in hell. The title and content conflict but at the same time go hand in hand.
Mary Shelly's short story "Frankenstein" addresses the issue of one individual being influenced by a societies culture. In the short story a man named Victor Frankenstein creates a "monster" who is both intelligent and grotesque. The monster attempts to merge into human society but miserably fails. Despite his intelligences and sensibility everyone is afraid of him. The monster soon is emotionally crushed. Shelly uses the monster to convey the disconnection between him and the townsmen. The most disturbing part about reading this story is how relevant it is in society now. People still judge based on appearance which is so shameful.
After reading "Frankenstein" I was bothered by the fact that appearance means so much. Not really sure what to do I went to meditation and tried to forget about it. It surprisingly did take my mind off the short story but more important I realized something. At meditation it is the only time I get to spend by myself, where I can truly relax and have clear thoughts. I share a room with five other girls and "alone time" isn't really a thing anymore. The silence in the room makes it a good environment to focus, especially on yourself. During this class I felt especially in-touch with myself. While I was sitting there my mind drifted to a memory I had when I was a little kid. Remember the days when you were younger and you would throw on anything in your closet? Childhood are so unique. When I was five clothes didn't match, shoes weren't tied, I had the worst haircut but I still had friends. There is something about children that makes them intolerable to being embarrassed or they're just simply naive. I miss my childhood, when materialistic things didn't matter to anyone.
The monster in "Frankenstein" never had a fighting chance because he looked abnormal. The color of our skin created barriers between cultures. Was it all really about appearance? Are cultural differences rooted within a persons appearance or contrasts in ideologies? Maybe it has nothing to do with the fact that opposites create disharmony, and that it really lies deeper in a fear of the unknown, abnormal and irregular.
After reading these poems as well as the short story I've realized that opposites do create a disharmony, but they also can create friendships.