As symbols, both the door and the monster have immediately recognizable meanings, which are used by both Fitzgerald and Johnson. The first of these, the door, is seen in Johnson’s poem as a barrier to a pleading child and less obviously, as Dexter Green’s favorite lurking place when confronting Judy Jones. In the first instance, the door occupies its more obvious position, becoming that at which one knocks to gain opportunity and is denied. Fitzgerald is more subtle and instead, merely places his protagonist in the doorway when contemplate opportunity. This character does not beg for the opportunity but merely considers it. The depiction of the monster is equally as varied. Yet again, Johnson specifically mentions monsters in a negative light as occupants of the other, while Fitzgerald places the insinuation of Judy as a monster on the lips of the golfers in part two of “Winter Dreams.” Again, the monsters of which Johnson speaks are much more negative and inhabit the guise of the men which the speaker has faced in the world. Fitzgerald’s monster is vaguer yet better suits the idea of uncertainty as later, the character proves to be capricious in her relations with men until she finally marries an even greater uncertainty.
These symbols of the door and the monster and their respective meanings often perfectly mesh with the characteristics of racism and activism. For example, both those engaging in activism and fighting racism often hope for the opportunities they seek, as expressed by the desires of the child wanting to be let in. Each group wants to be afforded that which was denied to them, an object which could be hidden behind a figurative door. Yet to get to that item, they must make it past the door. Here, the two groups face the uncertainty of the various monsters in their path. For the blacks fighting racism, this could be the white man, whose actions were undetermined, or for an entrepreneur and activist like Dexter Green, this could be all the older men and flirtatious women with which he interacted to make his way to the top. In each group, there exist monstrous people whose actions decided the fates of those fighting them. To succeed, one must conquer the uncertainty of their actions.
However, just as those fighting racism faced a different situation from those fighting for activism, the tones of the two works are radically different. In her poem, Johnson’s tone is much more negative and desperate, as demonstrated by her repetition of the world cruel and her frequent use of exclamation marks. By doing so, her denial of the whims of the child is much more emotional and forced. Additionally, her language and symbolism is more blatant and clear, as she cannot afford to mince her meaning. In contrast, Fitzgerald’s piece is much more subtle and controlled. Unlike Johnson, he does not need to make his point directly, just as the demands of activism where not as desperate as the demands of those fighting racism. Instead, he could afford to be more subtle so as to transmit his radical message to those like minded individuals while still abiding by the standards of Caucasian society.
As with all literature, the style of writing and extent of symbolism often depends on the status of the intended audience. Similarly, the style of demonstration of movements such racism and activism also caters to the needs of those affected. On one hand, Johnson and the fight against racism are more direct and emotional. On the other, Fitzgerald and his activism are subtle and conform to the expectations of his class. However, despite the differences in style each of these writes use similar symbolism in order to make equally important points.
Fitzgerald, F. S. (1922). Winter Dreams. From the University of South Carolina.
Johnson, G. D. (n.d.). Black woman. From the Academy of American Poets.