Chris Benson Benson 1 Mrs. Nichol aides Humanities 10/14/99 Jonathan Kozol s Wueltunshuung In the book Amazing Grace, Jonathan Kozol uses his unique ability to express his experiences, to the reader. He arranges the focus of the novel to modify the story. He takes the reader inside the Bronx and shows social injustice. Kozol is able to express the story in such a manner as to enable the reader to imaginatively participate, truly broadening and deepening his sense of the experience. The tools Kozol uses to invoke great emotion from the reader is what makes this book a work of art.
He cleverly centers his story around characters for whom most readers would feel the highest emotional involvement for. Kozol s choice of setting is ideal for the story because it is in a city to which he gives no accolades. The Walden book review praises Kozol on his style and storytelling. It compliments his realistic views and gives credit to his gloomy underlying tone to the story. The critic wrote: The thesis may very well hit close to the mark. But Kozol, to his credit, doesn t claim too much or pretend to have all the answers.
He presents his evidence and yes, his thoughts without claiming any lock on the truth here. His evidence strongly supports his dim perspective. The South Bronx for example, has an epidemic of severe asthma. He cites statistics showing hospital admissions for asthma at six or more per thousand people in the South Bronx neighborhoods, and 1. 8 per thousand statewide in New York.
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Although residents say they know the asthma epidemic s likely cause is the recently built incinerator nearby, Kozol explains that the assertion is both plausible and difficult to pin down (Walden Web Book reviews).
Kozol s greatest tool is his focus on children. He chronicles the inner city youths and their struggles with society. Most of them are sickly and underfed, as a result of parental and governmental neglect.
The use of children is powerful because the child is an innocent and pure person. The corruption and evils that overtake these children leave us with heavy hearts. The fact that the youngsters did not deserve the horrible things that were thrust upon them and their helplessness gives the reader a taste for the urban tragedies. He uses the children brilliantly because their innocence allows them to remain pure and hopeful even though they are in a slum area with little hope for a bright future. The child is ideal for a character because everyone can relate to being a child.
Not everyone has been a doctor, clerk or accountant, but everyone has been an innocent child once in their lives. Also people will feel sympathy toward the youths because of they are innocence. No one would feel as much sympathy for a thief or addict, because they are bringing evil upon themselves, whereas a child is thrust into the evils of society. The Elliot Bay book company wrote a review dealing with Kozol and his choice of setting. Claiming that it was a brilliant choice for this kind of story, the critic says: Jonathan Kozol speaks through hearts and minds of the children who live daily in war zone of drugs, prostitution, gunfire, and illness. Children tell of their dreams and worries; those who want to get a good education, eat snow cones, or enjoy a small packet of cookies, deal with AIDS, rape, and hunger on a daily basis.
This emphasizes the point that the children are able to see past all of the crime and poverty to their hopes and dreams. The critic concludes by writing, This is not an easy book to read, yet these children s stories are full of tenderness, and love, and grace. This is a neighborhood where people try to get by and that our country tires to forget (T. A. T. 1).
That review is a summary of his genius. Kozol is able to write using the perspective of the poor, without trying to preach a reform. He leaves an ominous message and realistically says that there is little hope for the victims of society. Kozol is so intent on helping the children and bringing focus to their needs that he talked to the Children s Express News Team.
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In this discussion he talked about the racism and neglect of the city kids. The children that he follows are mostly black or hispanic and are the subject of racial neglect, according to Kozol. Kozol said in the discussion with the Children s Express New York Bureau, Most black kids in America grow up and don t know any white people. (Children s News Express Bureau) Kozol stated in that same discussion that New York City, which is one of the most racist cities in world, has dumped all its toxic industries in the neighborhoods where poor black and Latino children live.
The rich and powerful white folks in New York City need a place to put a big sewage plant. (Children s News Express Bureau) As he is discussing the underprivileged youths, Kozol mentions that the children of the South Bronx are very religious. He feels that, the young and poor often have more faith than those who have material power. He is quoted in the article saying The children raise questions of good and evil more often than most children I ve met in the United States. I think that when people know hunger and homelessness and sadness and depression they re more open to religious thoughts.
Kozol has been quoted saying that he has become more religious since his interviews in the city. He says I long to believe there is a heaven because it seems unbearable that the children I met won t have something wonderful for them after they die. (Manning 1) Barbara Ehrenreich also comments on the spirituality of the book. She writes Kozol reminds us that, with each casualty, part of the beauty of the world is extinguished, because these are the children of intelligence and humor, of poetic insight and luminous faith. Amazing Grace is written in a gentle and measured tone, but you will wonder at the end, with Kozol, why the God of love does not return to earth with his avenging sword in hand (Ehrneich 1) Kozol lists some of the youths and their tragic endings which are unthinkable to most readers.
He gives them names and families so that they stick in the reader s mind and don t become a faceless mass to be forgotten. One example of this is Ebony Williams, a little girl who is incinerated in a pampers box near the Bruckner Expressway. Most readers could not even begin to imagine how or why that occurred. The surprise does not sit with the reader long as they continue and learn of the Dukes brothers. Judson and Steven Dukes both die in one year. One brother falls off a roof and the other dies of illness because of the unsanitary living conditions of the city.
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He doesn t stop after describing them, he artfully describes their mother and how hard it was for her. That helps to insert a picture into the reader s mind. These monstrosities are in addition to the countless youths who are shot to death or killed in various fires, which are all too familiar to the occupants of the South Bronx. The city and its officials are set in the role of the villain, just as they are with many of the poor citizens who feel neglected. This is a unique tool because often in literature and entertainment, the city is seen as a helpful friend to the people.
In one instance in the story, there is a little boy who is playing in a hallway and leans against an elevator shaft. The shaft doors open and the boy falls to his death. The building had not been inspected recently and the building management did little to repair the door. The city on the other hand blamed the parents for letting their child play around in a hazardous area. To this Kozol writes, Going outside for youngsters in the building, means going in to the hallway, since the real outside, where they could get some clean air, is just too dangerous. (Kozol 99) That statement paints a terrifying picture of a place where a run down hall way with a faulty elevator shaft is the safest place for kids to socialize.
Another example is that of Mrs. Washington, a woman who is dying of AIDS. She is forced clean her own hospital room after she checks in. Even the little things that most people take for granted are nonexistent for her and her peers in the Bronx.
From there Kozol uses the view point of the poor to assault city hall. He lists the programs that had been cut by Mayor Guliani, including sanitation and inspection services as well as many rehabilitation programs. Also tax cuts in Manhattan, that benefit only the five percent of the population who also have incomes of over $100, 000, are of no help to the minorities dying of poverty in the South Bronx. These cuts are funded by laying off many social service agents who also happen to be mostly black and hispanic women.
From the very second I was born, until this very day, I had understood life to be a certain way. Life had taken its course and my family, as well as myself, have suffered ups and downs. We " ve been through times which were good and which were the worst of the worst - all families do. What I didn't know is that regardless of the good and the bad, that the life I lived was sheltered to the point ...
This means that the ratio of two hundred cases to one worker will grow even more uneven. Kozol continues to emphasize his point by quoting the mayor in his talks with children, I think largely you have to help yourself… . Look at what is there and take advantage of it. (Kozol 101) However, Kozol then reveals that Guliani soon cancels 11, 000 jobs for children of their ages, as well as afterschool programs in which children would be safe while families work. This basically means that city hall has decided that poor families will have to manage without public help. Kozol stays away from the beneficial actions of city hall because he believes that the benefits are given mainly to the white middle and upper class citizens.
He writes irately on how the inspection program for apartment buildings are cut. Two of the children who he interviews are killed in different apartment fires. He describes the illegally barred windows and fire escapes, the non-fire retardant building materials and the lack of fire safety items such as an extinguishers or fire alarms. Kozol also lashes out at the press and media for making the many cases seem impersonal and the victims faceless. He writes, The victims soon dissolve into a vague scenario of sadness that can seem uncomfortably abstract (Kozol 132) He uses this to evoke frustration from his readers because there is little to be done about the fires, and it seems as though those with the power simply turn their heads. He has collected several headlines to exemplify of his point.
Fiery Tomb For Two Bronx Kids, from the Daily News. No Escape, reads a second headline. Trapped Tot Killed In Apartment Blaze, reads a headline one day later. Apartment Fire Kills Bronx Boy is another.
Bronx Apartment Blaze Kills Mom and Son, reads one more vague description. The final headline was for a fire in which the mother and son had died together. The boy was believed to be somewhat retarded, however he actually had only a learning disability which was undetected early because there was not sufficient help for him from the schools. Kozol proposes several different systems to help. They include AIDS awareness and treatment, correction facilities, and protection and security measures. He also enumerates programs which are needed such as thirteen shelters, twelve soup kitchens, eleven free food pantries and what he calls an empowerment zone, or enterprise zone, which would be a business that generates jobs for a small fraction of the people who reside in the slums.
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Kozol adds an explanation to this, All of these strategies and services are needed-all these and hundreds more- if our society intends to keep on placing those it sees as unclean in the unclean places. In reality, it is a form of quarantine, says Ana Oliver, who directs an agency that serves ex-prison inmates who have AIDS, not just people who have AIDS but people who have everything we fear, sickness, color, destitution-but it has been carried out in ways that seem compatible with humane principles (Kozol 137).
Kozol quotes a woman from the South Bronx who acknowledges the evils. She says Evil exists? Yes I said that. People who let other people be destroyed do evil.
People who know but do not act do evil. I don t know if I would call them evil but they re certainly not thinking about heaven. (Kozol 96) He told critic Anita Manning that the people there were nothing to fear and it was the society that was scary. He proclaimed, I m far more terrified of the icy equanimity of corporate attorneys in Manhattan than any drug dealers in the South Bronx. Those corporate attorneys are killing far more people and doing it with the illusion of innocence.
Kozol has a unique ability to express his views with facts and statistics. He uses, however, only the facts that are disturbing enough to complete his thoughts and send them from his vision to the reader s vision. He attempts to go after the prison and correction programs of the city. He comes out with an alarming figure that the city spends, fifty-eight thousand dollars a year on each adult inmate and seventy thousand on each juvenile. These are disproportionate figures to start with but he drives home his point by adding that each is about ten times as much as what it spends on educating a child in its public schools. (Kozol 142) The setting Kozol uses is a powerful tool in his vision of the world.
The rundown city of the South Bronx is a consummate choice. This is an area that has a minute amount of income and little hope for improvement. The South Bronx is one of the most racially as well as economically segregated areas in the country. There are virtually no prosperous citizens and very few are white.
... Kozol takes the reader from the comforts of our experiences to the trials of less fortunate people - a grandmother whose neighbors' children ... those that try to identify the current problems in our society, or the strategies to use in dealing with those ... disease, and pandemic depression that plague these neighborhoods where the city effectively conceals its underclass, keeping them out of sight ...
Kozol has picked an area that receives ineffectual government help and a place whose existence most ordinary people don t want to even acknowledge. The filth ridden streets and condemnable buildings are home to the elderly, hardworking, and children, in addition to drug dealers, prostitutes and criminals. After hearing Kozol s description of the area as a rat s nest, one cannot help but wonder how the children are able to remain spiritually faithful and hopeful. One major part of the setting is St. Ann s Episcopal Church.
The building occupies a spacious close along St. Ann s Avenue opposite 140 th Street in the Bronx. It is more than just a museum; it is a virtual center of community activity. Mott Haven-St. Ann s neighborhood-is the heart of the poorest congressional district in the United States of America. St.
Ann s addresses the urgent needs of its neighbors with food and assistance. The church has developed a dramatically successful afterschool program for elementary school children. This is an example of how a small number of people are successfully trying to make a difference, yet on the whole, Kozol believes that society leaves much to be desired in our treatment of one another. Kozol believes that society is largely responsible for each citizen. Using the prisons again to transfer his thoughts to the reader, he reveals that nearly three quarters of the inmates of state prisons in New York are from the same seven neighborhoods of New York City. They are the South Bronx, Harlem, Brownsville, Bedford-Stuvyesant, South Jamaica, East New York, and the Lower East Side of Manhattan.
All but one of the neighborhoods are deeply segregated ghetto neighborhoods. Kozol demonstrates how the racist city cares little for the minority groups and that it is this neglect that turns these city blocks into breeding grounds for criminal activity. His message that segregation and lack of money is a cause of crime is clear because of his continuous focus on the negative effects of poverty. White rich neighborhoods are virtually crime free in comparison. A black man in New York is fourteen times as likely to be incarcerated as a white man.
A hispanic man is twelve times as likely to be imprisoned and ninety seven percent of juveniles imprisoned in secure detention are either hispanic or black. Kozol offers a solution of sorts when he tells Anita Manning of USA Today, and she quotes him, The problem is not beyond our ability to solve, Kozol says. Rather, we lack the spiritual will to act on what we know… . No matter what some racists or hardhearted people think of women of color, the children have done nothing wrong.
They ve done nothing, and they re too sweet to even hate us. We re allowing them to die. Kozol is able to clearly transfer his vision to the reader in his treatise, Amazing Grace, by using several tools that hit the reader hard. But it is probably the way he blends them together that makes his work stand out. One is his use of the children and their purity. No one can stand to see an innocent child killed or oppressed, so this is a great choice for characters.
The setting is important because it is in one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country. Also, the South Bronx is racially segregated, consisting of mostly blacks and Hispanics. Kozol is able to use the two together to illustrate the point of view of the residents to the reader. He offers a new look from a non- white or wealthy point of view. Kozol gives depth and personality to those victims of society who are portrayed as a faceless mass by the press and politicians. Many readers might believe that the poor are lazy and there is nothing that can be done.
They might think it is best to turn their backs to it and let it go away on its own. Kozol fights this notion and gives each victim a name and a story. He writes how others viewed the innocent children and how they are missed. There is one quote from the book in which Kozol cites a priest from nearby St. Ann s Episcopal Church. He explains how and why the children remain faithful.
He says: You have to remember, says the priest whom I share my thoughts about these meetings, that for this little boy whom you have met, his life is just as important, to him, as your life is to you. No matter how insufficient or how shabby it may seem to some, it is the only one he has -an obvious statement that upsets me deeply nonetheless (Kozol 178).
That one quote sums up Kozol s work in a nutshell. It gives the reader a deep thought of how each persons life has equal value.
Of course, monetarily all lives are different but simply because one does not have money or power, it does not mean that their loss is any less meaningful. The wealthy, white dominated media would have one believe otherwise and Kozol knows that society is so brainwashed that when most people hear of a tragedy in a slum they shrug it off and say It was only a bum. In comparison the tragedy of a wealthy white person would be well documented, such as the recent John Kennedy Jr. ordeal. It is not to say that the victims did not deserve a ceremony, but to illustrate how some lives are perceived to be more valuable than others. In fact, Kozol said in an interview with Christopher Zimmerman, Is money really the issue? It s extraordinary-as though it were strange to suggest that poverty is primarily a matter of economics.
Would we doubt this if we were talking about people starving in Haiti? or Calcutta? Of course not. We would say they re poor not because they do not have the right values, or something of that sort, but because of their economic condition. Only in the United States, it seems, do we question whether poverty is caused by lack of money. There s almost a sense here that we can t conceive the presence of economic injustice in our own society-only in other societies. Why should our society be different from any other society? Of course, spending money is not the only way to solve the problem of unequal schools, for example but it would be a beginning (Zimmerman 1).
One of Kozol s apparatus to express his vision of the world, is that through all the tragedies and all of the oppression, he still presents the reader with characters whom are pure and able to survive.
One example of this is Mrs. Washington, an older woman who has lived in the South Bronx her whole life and has seen all of the villainy that occurs. She witnesses the deaths of the children and falls ill herself. She is forced into an inept hospital, yet remains decent and humane.
Mrs. Washington is a character whose fate underlies the entire story. She is alive from beginning to end, and sees all of the children who are destroyed by the inactivity of others. She is a powerful tool in the story because by the later years of her life, the area is still in the same, if not worse condition as it was during her childhood. It makes the reader think What have we really done to help these people and when will we make a significant difference. Others who survive to go on to college or remain spiritual, give hope to the reader that one day the city and society will change and help these people live.
In contrast to all of the evil characters such as the drug dealers, murderess or city hall, Kozol presents dozens of martyrs who fight the evils of society. He gives them names and stories to eliminate the faceless mass that is referred to as the poor. One, Alicia A ponte, a nineteen year old girl, was killed in a crossfire at a playground. Another, Lourdes C intron, was a philanthropist who was killed shortly after taking over the family business of philanthropy. One more martyr was Moondog a man who was killed in the doorway of his house while protecting a pregnant woman.
All of these characters are inspirational despite their tragic deaths. It gives hope that there are still some who are not corrupted by the evil that is known as society. Toni Morrison also praises Kozol on his tools. She writes, Amazing Grace is good in the old-fashioned sense: beautiful and morally worthy… . I thank you for the language of this book, and its refusal to patronize, to exotic ize these children and its insistence upon taking what they say, feel and think seriously. (Morrison) Throughout the book Amazing Grace, by Jonathan Kozol, the author uses many tools that help him convey his vision of the world to the reader.
His choice of children as the main characters is unique because it gives the reader a character they can relate to as well as sympathize for because of the innocence a child has. The use of setting could not be a better tool because of how poor and dirty the city is. It is racially segregated so the wealthy whites relate little to what happens to the inhabitants of one of the poorest cities in the nation. The spiritual overtone that Kozol uses in the book does not necessarily relate to the religious but more to the morality of humanity. He accuses the world of a crime that is not written or spoken of, it is the crime of indifference.
His ability to reveal these evils to the world is what makes his book a work of art. In his epilogue, Kozol chooses a very thought provoking scene. It deals with politicians and officials giving speeches to the poor in the city park, preaching an upcoming change. He quotes the officials in saying You can t control what you were born as, but if you control yourself, our life will be more peaceful. (Kozol 234) A nice sounding quote but when one breaks it down it is a different story.
Yes they could not control what they were born as, but that is why segregation is evil. The second part of the phrase is almost absurd. If you can control yourself, our life will be more peaceful. It sounds as if the official was blaming the children and the poor for their violent behavior and asking them to stop so that the wealthy do not have to deal with these problems. It seems as if the man has no idea of what actually goes on in these neighborhoods. After hearing enough of this gathering Kozol is walking away.
In a symbolist ic way he exits behind the officials to another block where he sees addicts and homeless abundant in the street, as if to say it is what is at the back of the city that is the problem not the front. Kozol s most touching tool is the reminder that the people who live there actually do live with grace. He writes about how the oppressed people still try to live like any other citizen. One character, Mrs.
Flowers, is an older woman who lives in a small rundown apartment. Mrs. Flowers does not act like she is living in poverty, she cleans her apartment everyday and keeps it in good condition, given the situation. Kozol had gone to visit her one time and was surprised at how she acted like an upper-class hostess, offering tea and food to him.
This was surprising because of her lifetime of poverty and the fact that she had lost her daughter to AIDS recently. Another character is Mrs. Washington, who had remained hopeful despite her constant oppression and struggles. She lived her whole life in poverty and had seen most of the youth in the area that were killed before they could experience life. These people amazingly stayed hopeful and did so with grace. Kozol s tools are what make this book a work of art.
His keen sense of humanity adds to the flavor of this urgent cry for help. The children are symbols of beauty and innocence that remain pure despite their harsh surroundings. The city and public that do little to help these people are committing the worst crime one can commit according to Kozol, indifference. This story is clearly told to the reader by Kozol, who is a master at conveying his vision to the reader. One final question arises to the reader by the end of story, and that is When will things change?