The Different Conceptions Of The Veil In The Souls

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The Different Conceptions Of The Veil In The Souls Of Black Folk

The Different Conceptions of the Veil in The Souls of Black Folk


"For now we see through a glass, darkly"

-Isiah 25:7


         W.E.B. Du Bois's Souls of Black Folk, a collection of autobiographical
and historical essays contains many themes. There is the theme of souls and
their attainment of consciousness, the theme of double consciousness and the
duality and bifurcation of black life and culture; but one of the most striking
themes is that of "the veil." The veil provides a link between the 14 seemingly
unconnected essays that make up The Souls of Black Folk. Mentioned at least once
in most of the 14 essays it means that, "the Negro is a sort of seventh son,
born with a veil, and gifted with second sight in this American world, -a world
with yields him no true self-consciousness, but only lets him see himself
through the revelation of the other world. It is a peculiar sensation, this
double consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the
eyes of others."Footnote1 The veil is a metaphor for the separation and
invisibility of black life and existence in America and is a reoccurring theme
in books abo ut black life in America.
         Du Bois's veil metaphor, "In those somber forests of his striving his
own soul rose before him, and he saw himself, -darkly as though through a
veil"Footnote2, is a allusion to Saint Paul's line in Isiah 25:7, "For now we
see through a glass, darkly."Footnote3 Saint Paul's use of the veil in Isiah and
later in Second Corinthians is similar to Du Bois's use of the metaphor of the
veil. Both writers claim that as long as one is wrapped in the veil their
attempts to gain self-consciousness will fail because they will always see the
image of themselves reflect back to them by others. Du Bois applies this by
claiming that as long as on is behind the veil the, "world which yields him no
self-consciousness but who only lets him see himself through the revelation of
the other world."Footnote4 Saint Paul in Second Corinthians says the way to self
consciousness and an understanding lies in, "the veil being taken away, Now the
lord is the spirit and where the spirit of the lord is there is liberty." Du
Bois does not claim that transcending the veil will lead to a better
understanding of the lord but like Saint Paul he finds that only through
transcending "the veil" c...