“Theology” by Paul Laurence Dunbar, “Tableau” by Countee Cullen, and “Frankenstein” by Mary Shelley all share a similar theme. In each of these writings, the narrator explores the significance of stereotypes and people not being accepted because they appear different on the outside. In each, the narrator realizes that it is the other people’s problem, not his own. He goes on about his daily living barely affected by his neighbors’ opinions.
In “Theology”, Paul Laurence Dunbar wastes little time to explore how he has been mistreated by his white neighbors. The poem is only four lines long, so he gets his point across very quickly. His basic point is that he is going to Heaven, while his neighbors are going to Hell. In the last line of the poem, he says, “If there not, where would my neighbours go?” He is referring to Hell when he is talking about the place that he knows his neighbors will eventually go to someday. He expresses this so matter-of-factly that it appears not to bother him in his daily living; he is probably so used to being treated differently that he doesn’t pay any attention to it. He knows that his neighbors will get their punishment on Judgment Day.
In “Tableau”, Countee Cullen explores the same racial stereotype that Dunbar explored. The poem tells the story of a black boy and a white boy who walk arm in arm through the streets. Even though they know they are being watched (by the black folks) and talked about (by the white folks), they don’t care. “Oblivious to look and work, they pass” through the streets. Cullen uses thunder and lightning when talking about the white and black boy together. This suggests that just as thunder and lightning go together, so should a black and white boy – seeing them together shouldn’t evoke any emotion. It should be taken for granted.
In “Frankenstein”, Mary Shelley shows stereotyping by showing the people of the town’s reaction to the creature that Victor Frankenstein created. The creature tells Victor about what has happened to him so far in his young life, and he tells him how he was perceived by the people of the town. They judged him for his ugly outside appearance. On page 73, he begins to tell Victor about a man that he ran into in a hut when he was looking for food. The creature says, “He turned on hearing a noise; and perceiving me shrieked loudly, and quitting the hut, ran across the fields with a speed of which his debilitated form hardly appeared capable.” He is judged for his appearance and not for who he really is. Later in the chapter he talks about how all of the people in a village that he goes to are also all frightened and scared of him just because off of his freakish looking appearance. What they don’t realize is that he is just like a normal human being on the inside and is just trying to find the way for himself. Instead of giving him a chance and helping him, they decide to judge him and attack him for what he looks like on the outside.
All three of these writings explain that what is on the inside is more important than what is on the outside. People need to look beyond what is normal to them and what they are comfortable with, and give others a chance. This includes me. I admit that I had a problem of pre-judging people by what they looked like. I didn’t realize that I acted this way until the first time I visited Our Daily Bread. Our Daily Bread is located in the inner-city of Baltimore, right next to the Baltimore City Jail. When I arrived that morning to begin my shift, the first thing I noticed were several men sitting on the sidewalk near the building. My first instinct was that I didn’t want to get out of the car – I had never seen so many people who looked different than me gathered in one place before. As I was contemplating this, I heard loud screams from the jail next door. At that point, I definitely decided that I wasn’t going in. I associated the criminals inside the jail with the men I saw outside. After I sat in the car for awhile, I finally got up the courage to get out and walk past these men and go inside to start my service. Needless to say, I am glad I did. In the weeks since then, I have developed relationships with many of the people who eat there. My life has added meaning because I moved out of my comfort zone, moved passed the stereotypes that were familiar to me, and let my mind open up to new experiences. These experiences have been very rewarding to me.