Literature Analysis of The Souls of The Black Folk by Du Bois

About this sample

About this sample


Words: 1032 |

Pages: 2|

6 min read

Published: Mar 19, 2020

Words: 1032|Pages: 2|6 min read

Published: Mar 19, 2020


Table of contents

  1. Introduction
  2. Du Bois's Background and Motivation
  3. Tone and Its Evolution
  4. Literary Devices: Allusion and Symbolism
  5. Rhetorical Devices: Hypophora and Anaphora
  6. Conclusion


W.E.B. Du Bois, an African American scholar and activist, penned the seminal work "The Souls of Black Folk" in the late 19th century. This masterpiece delves into the complex issues surrounding slavery, labor struggles, separation, segregation, and family life. Each chapter within the book tells a different section of life involving one of these issues, providing a multifaceted exploration of the African American experience in the United States during that period. Du Bois's personal connection to these issues, having grown up in a society grappling with racial turmoil and discrimination, lends a powerful authenticity to his writing.

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Du Bois's Background and Motivation

To fully appreciate the significance of "The Souls of Black Folk," it is essential to understand the background and motivation of its author. Du Bois, an African American man living in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, was intimately acquainted with the challenges and injustices faced by his community. Born in Great Barrington, Massachusetts, in 1868, he experienced racial prejudice and discrimination firsthand, even in a relatively progressive northern state.

Du Bois's own experiences, coupled with his rigorous education, including studies at Fisk University and Harvard, fueled his passion for addressing social and racial inequalities. He became a prominent advocate for civil rights and social justice, using his intellectual prowess and writing skills to shed light on the issues plaguing African Americans.

In his own words, Du Bois implores readers to approach his work with understanding and empathy:

"I pray you, then, receive my little book in all charity, studying my words with me, forgiving mistake and foible for the sake of the faith and passion that is in me, and seeking the grain of truth hidden there."

This quote underscores the deeply personal nature of his writing and his genuine commitment to addressing the challenges faced by African Americans.

Tone and Its Evolution

"The Souls of Black Folk" carries a poignant and sorrowful tone, with hints of neutrality. Du Bois explores the grim realities of social injustice, racial segregation, and the legacy of slavery. Throughout the book, readers encounter heart-wrenching stories of death, confusion, and abandonment, painting a stark picture of the struggles faced by African Americans in the late 19th century.

The matter-of-fact tone also emerges as Du Bois presents his analysis of these issues, providing a clear-eyed assessment of the social landscape. However, it is in the final pages of the book that a glimmer of hope emerges, hinting at a brighter future. This transformation in tone is significant, as it reflects Du Bois's belief in the potential for social progress.

Du Bois underscores the importance of this evolving tone in his work:

"Even so is the hope that sang in the songs of my fathers well sung. Free, free as the sunshine trickling down the morning into these high windows of mine, free as yonder fresh young voices welling up to me from the caverns of brick and mortar below — swelling with song, instinct with life, tremulous treble and darkening bass. My children, my little children, are singing to the sunshine, and thus they sing."

This transformation from sorrow to hope is emblematic of the book's overarching message: that despite the adversities faced by African Americans, there is room for optimism and progress.

Literary Devices: Allusion and Symbolism

Du Bois employs various literary devices to enhance the depth and impact of his work. Two prominent devices in "The Souls of Black Folk" are allusion and symbolism.

One notable allusion is Du Bois's reference to "Uncle Tom's Cabin," a famous work of literature. He writes,

"This deep religious fatalism, painted so beautifully in 'Uncle Tom,' came soon to breed, as all fatalistic faiths will, the sensualist side by side with the martyr."

This allusion to Harriet Beecher Stowe's novel underscores the broader cultural context in which Du Bois is writing, as both works address the social issues surrounding African Americans and the wrongs of slavery. By referencing a well-known literary work, Du Bois strengthens his credibility and connects his own writing to a larger discourse.

Another literary device Du Bois employs is symbolism, with the most prominent symbol being "the Veil." He writes,

"And thus in the Land of the Color-line I saw, as it fell across my baby, the shadow of the Veil. Within the Veil was he born, said I; and there within shall he live, — a Negro and a Negro's son."

The Veil symbolizes both the physical and metaphorical barriers that separated African Americans from the rest of society. It represents the shadow of discrimination and inequality that hung over their lives. This symbolism adds depth and richness to Du Bois's narrative, allowing readers to engage with the text on multiple levels.

Rhetorical Devices: Hypophora and Anaphora

In addition to literary devices, Du Bois employs rhetorical devices to engage and persuade his readers. Two key rhetorical devices in his work are hypophora and anaphora.

Hypophora is a device where a speaker poses a question and then immediately answers it. Du Bois skillfully utilizes this device when he asks,

"What have been the successive steps of this social history, and what are the present tendencies?"

By using hypophora, he sets the stage for a detailed exploration of the historical and contemporary issues facing African Americans. This rhetorical device effectively guides the reader's attention and reinforces the importance of the topics to be discussed.

Anaphora involves the repetition of a word or phrase at the beginning of successive clauses or sentences. Du Bois employs anaphora to emphasize key points in his work. For example, he writes,

"it must maintain the standards of popular education, it must seek the social regeneration of the Negro, and it must help in the solution of problems of race contact and cooperation. And finally, beyond all this, it must develop men."

Through this repetition, Du Bois underscores the essential tasks that society must undertake to address the issues of racial segregation and inequality. The repeated phrase "it must" serves as a persuasive and rhetorical device, driving home the urgency of these actions.


In conclusion, "The Souls of Black Folk" by W.E.B. Du Bois is a profoundly important work that provides a comprehensive exploration of the challenges and injustices faced by African Americans in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Du Bois's personal connection to these issues, coupled with his literary and rhetorical prowess, make this book a powerful testament to the enduring struggle for civil rights and social justice.

Throughout the work, Du Bois employs literary devices such as allusion and symbolism to deepen the narrative, while rhetorical devices like hypophora and anaphora engage and persuade the reader. The evolving tone of the book, from sorrow to hope, underscores the resilience and determination of the African American community.

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As we reflect on the enduring relevance of "The Souls of Black Folk," it becomes clear that Du Bois's call for social progress and equality continues to resonate today. This work serves as a reminder of the ongoing struggle for justice and equality and encourages us to confront the challenges of our time with the same passion and conviction that drove Du Bois to pen these enduring words.


  1. Du Bois, W. E. B. (1903). The Souls of Black Folk. Chicago, IL: A. C. McClurg & Co.
  2. Lewis, D. L. (2009). W. E. B. Du Bois: A Biography, 1868-1963. New York, NY: Henry Holt and Co.
  3. Rudwick, E. M. (1998). W. E. B. Du Bois: Propagandist of the Negro Protest. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press.
  4. McFarland, P. (2006). W. E. B. Du Bois: An Encyclopedia of the NAACP. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
  5. Rabaka, R. (2010). W. E. B. Du Bois and the Problems of the Twenty-First Century: An Essay on Africana Critical Theory. Lanham, MD: Lexington Books.
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Literature Analysis of the Souls of the Black Folk by Du Bois. (2020, March 16). GradesFixer. Retrieved June 24, 2024, from
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