The Autobiography of an Ex-Colored Man

The Power of Music in Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man College

The Power of Music in Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man

In Johnson’s The Autobiography of an Ex-Coloured Man, the narrator is able to marry the two halves of his musical identity in a way that he is unable to do with his racial identity. Whether it is the black and white keys of the piano, classical vs. popular music, or high art vs. low art, dichotomous musical relationships co-exist harmoniously in the novel. This is evidenced by the narrator’s successful performance of his “ragtime transcription of Mendelssohn’s Wedding March” (118). Ragtime music is rooted in African rhythms while Mendelssohn’s piece comes from classical European traditions, and the narrator’s successful combination of both black and white music earns him a “round of generous applause” (119). The power of art, and more specifically, the power of music are evidenced by the narrator’s musical talent and success. Johnson uses music to create a world that sees past one’s race, ethnicity, class, and gender. As readers, we are deeply in tune with the narrator’s musical endeavors; it is the kind of outlet he finds from “all the little tragedies of [his] life” (3). As stated by the millionaire friend, “Music is a universal art; anybody’s music...

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