Coates writes about the way America wishes to see itself, which is problematic because reality is so different: "America believes itself exceptional, the greatest and noblest nation to ever exist, a lone champion standing between the white city of democracy and the terrorists, despots, barbarians, and other enemies of civilization" (8).
Racism as a Beating (Metaphor)
Coates describes the effect of racism on a black person as one of physical hurt: "racism is a visceral experience, that it dislodges brains, blocks airways, rips muscles, extracts organs, cracks bones, breaks teeth" (10).
Coates describes the randomness and relentlessness of murders as sheets of rain: "I was aware that these murders very often did not land upon the intended targets but fell upon great-aunts, PTA mothers, overtime uncles, and joyful children - fell upon them random and relentless, like great sheets of rain" (19).
Coates uses the metaphor of an orderly military procession to suggest how he wishes to view his ancestors, but then explains how they actually seemed more like a disorganized brawl: "I had come looking for a parade, for a military review of champions marching in ranks. Instead I left with a brawl of ancestors, a herd of dissenters, sometimes marching together but just as often marching away from each other" (48).
Coates uses the metaphor of a vessel with contents poured into it and then shattered to demonstrate the sadness and violence of Prince's death: "And think of how that vessel was taken, shattered on the concrete, and all of its holy contents, all that had gone into him, sent flowing back into the earth" (82).
Between the World and Me Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Between the World and Me is a great
resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.