What Is the Message of Malcolm X's "Coming to an Awareness of Language"? Essay

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  5
Wordcount:  1157 Words
Date:  2022-09-22

In Malcolm X's short Narrative "Coming to an Awareness of Language," he addresses the theme of the importance of education. The message in the narrative essay is consistent with the importance of reading and writing, especially among the people who want their voices to be heard (Eric, 7). According to him, the oppressed need to voice their concerns as inaction is one of the issues that make the oppressed fail to get justice for themselves. Malcolm X gives the message through the description of his lengthy frustration due to his inability to read, write and communicate in a language that could make the white men hear his complaints. The main issue addressed in this case is racial discrimination that put the black Americans as the target group that the white spew hate on. However, the main message in the narrative essay is the importance of language that could allow black Americans to voice their complaints about the way they were treated by the white people who discriminated against them.

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One of the reasons Malcolm claims the black Americans do not understand the situation they are in enough to start fighting for their right is because they are not exposed to the reading materials that would make them understand the right thing to do about the condition. Malcolm expresses the message of the importance of reading through various expressions such as his failure to comprehend as simple message as "the white man is the devil" (Malcolm, 13). According to him, the reason people get into crimes such as drug use and peddling is that they lack the language to help them get gainful jobs that can earn them income. If the black Americans on the streets had fair communication skills, marshaling them to fight for their rights would be easy. He claims that he has always gained good things in his life by being active, he expresses that he does not believe in getting issues solved by remaining inactive. By that, he meant using his pen and paper to write to everyone who would help solve the issue of racism against the black people in the 'wilderness' of North America.

The message of the importance of communication is expressed in the story where he claims that he was frustrated by the fact that he could not effectively express his feelings in the letters he wrote to people such as Mr. Elijah Muhammad. According to him, expressing feelings in a paper is one of the effective means of communication that one can tell another or a group of people about what he or she wants. The aspect of communication through a letter features in this narrative essay as one of the tools that he used to fight racial prejudice against the black Americans. According to him, he could articulate issues in the streets, which makes him a good orator (Malcolm, 15). In fact, he claims that whenever he spoke in the streets, people would listen to him. What frustrated him most was that he could not manage to communicate the same way he did in the streets in a letter he addressed to people he depended on to help him in his course.

Malcolm X struggled to learn vocabularies in English all by himself at an extent that he guessed he wrote up to a million words. After borrowing a dictionary, some tablets and a pencil, he spent the rest of his days in the prison rewriting the words in the dictionary as a way of learning them. His insatiable need to be an eloquent speaker drove him to develop the need to read and learn as many words in English as he could. He claimed that "the best thing I could do was get hold of a dictionary- to study, to learn some words" (Malcolm, 15). According to him, he was a lucky man to have the ability to think that he did not only need to be able to read, but also to improve his penmanship. The two aspects of learning, reading and writing would allow him to communicate with Mr. Mohammad and any other person he needed to communicate through writing or by word of mouth.

Malcolm X gave examples of people he knew from the streets who could not reply to the letters he left to them in places he knew they would find them. He talks of people with colorful monikers such as "Sammy the Pimp, John Hughes, the gambling house owner, the thief Jumpsteady, and several dope peddlers" (Malcolm, 13). He claims that despite the fact that he wrote to them about important issues such as Allah and the Islam religion, none of them made any attempt to reply to any of his letters. Because of that, he could not include them in his quest for justice and blames this on their inability to read and write. He claimed that some of his friends expressed the interests in the issues of Wall Street. However, they could not even read simple letters. In case they received any letter, they would look for the few who could read to help them understand the content of the letters.

Lastly, Malcolm triumphs after he successfully learns how to read and write as he becomes a nationally recognized figure, who was respected for being an excellent communicator. He addressed several issues that people needed to know about racial prejudice in the African America civil right movement gatherings (Eric, 15). According to him, learning how to read and write gave him a lot of freedom. In fact, he claims that the freedom he got when learning how to read and write in prison was more than any freedom he ever had in the streets. He dedicated most of his time in prison to read from the dictionary and writing, due to that, he hardly felt the difficulty of being an inmate in prison (Malcolm, 14). According to him, communication meant being able to use a language that everyone would understand in the right context. For instance, he was able to communicate with friends in the streets but that, to him, was not enough.


In summary, the message of the importance of reading and writing in communication formed the theme of the narrative essay by Malcolm X. He expressed the message by narrating his story and transition from a person who could not express himself in proper English to a person who could articulately express himself in some of the African American Civil Rights movement gatherings. To him, the reason he became a national figure was that he eventually learned how to read and write, and so he could communicate to people about his feelings and aspirations.

Works Cited

Hawkins, Eric. "Awareness of language/knowledge about language in the curriculum in England and Wales: An historical note on twenty years of curricular debate." Language Awareness 1.1 (1992): 5-17.

Malcolm, X. "Coming to an Awareness of Language." Language awareness, edited by P. Eschholz, A. Rosa, and V. Clark (1986): 13-16.

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What Is the Message of Malcolm X's "Coming to an Awareness of Language"? Essay. (2022, Sep 22). Retrieved from https://proessays.net/essays/what-is-the-message-of-malcolm-xs-coming-to-an-awareness-of-language-essay

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