Summary of Kestrel for a Knave and Black Writers Essay

A Kestrel for a Knave tells the story of a disadvantaged teenager, Billy Casper, who lives in a mining town.

How would you feel if you just worked, but you didn’t have an ambition, you are surrounded by people who have accepted their lot in life and that you won’t be allowed to hope for better? You aren’t told right and wrong, you are told what is. It is pushed in your face for you to deal with. This is what children like Billy were told (1950s).

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We learn that Billy is a character who is entirely on his own; no help is given from anyone, not even his family. Billy is very badly neglected by his family and we see how he thinks that nothing is going to improve and emphasises throughout the novel that he can never make anything of himself. He is in trouble with the police for theft; he shares a bed with his brother and goes to a school with some off-putting and cruel teachers, and has nothing to look forward to but the day when he to goes to work in the Hades coals mine.

Everything soon turns around for Billy when he finds a kestrel. Billy teaches himself falconry and begins to work with the kestrel that he calls Kes. For the first time Billy begins to learn about trust, responsibility and love, which he has never been shown at school or home. Kes is hope for him. Billy’s teacher has persuaded him to share what he has learned about falconry. Billy has never before shown much interest in class so his teacher is surprised at his specialist knowledge and vocabulary.

Barry Hines feels sympathy for Billy as he shows this through his word choice and situations throughout the novel. The ending of the book is amazing although it is very upsetting.

Black Writers

Toni Morrison was the first black woman to receive the Nobel Prize in Literature; she also has won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

Chloe Wofford also known as Toni Morrison was brought up in Lorain, Ohio, where her parents had moved to escape the problems of southern racism. Morrison grew up in the black community of Lorain and read all the time. Morrison’s father, George Wofford always told her stories of the black community. Lorain was a small industrial town with had settlers Europeans, Mexicans and Southern blacks who lived next to each other. In Chloe’s first grade at school, she was the only black student in her class and the only one who could read. She was friends with many of her white schoolmates and did not meet unfairness until she started dating.

In 1949 she entered Howard University in Washington, D.C., America’s most famous black college. Originally her name had been Chloe but she changed it to Toni as people found it too difficult to pronounce Chloe. She continued her studies at Cornell University in New York. Morrison wrote her theory on suicide and received her M.A. in 1955.

Soon after Morrison became an instructor in English at Texas Southern University, at Houston, and taught in the English department at Howard. She then became a textbook editor and was later transferred to the New York headquarters of Random House. There she edited books by popular black authors such as Toni Cade Bambara.

Her first novel was published in 1970, The Bluest Eye. Soon after with Sula in 1973, Song of Solomon in 1977, Tar Baby in 1981, Beloved in 1987, Jazz in 1992 and Paradise in 1998. Beloved won a Pulitzer Prize.

In her novels, she focuses on the experience of black Americans, mainly emphasising black women’s experience in an unfair society. She uses fantasy and realistic description of racial, gender and class conflict.


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