The Coming has one of the strongest lines, “This was The Coming.” This line is so powerful because it encapsulates the theme of Black’s novel: the memory and celebrations of African souls lost across the Atlantic Ocean. Black’s novel uses language in an unusually powerful manner. Black’s unique writing style and his constant use of imagery are the things that stand out most. The Coming is a powerful novel because of its language, which Black uses to great effect.
The Coming starts with the words, “We didn’t realize we wouldn’t return”. Black opens the novel with the phrase “We hadn’t known we wouldn’t come back” (1). Black introduces that everyone in his novel is called we since he’s an African-American and believes this is a story that will resonate with many other African-Americans. He spends about twenty pages establishing an authentic African image that many readers do not know. Black writes, “We used to be warriors, hunters, poets, jalis, farmers, soothsayers and farmers…We loved.” We were at home. We loved our land, and it loved our ….We were aware of our weaknesses and strengths. But we were home” (Black 3). Black lists the tribes from which African-Americans are descended. Some are well-known to the public, while others may not be. This section is especially interesting as it provides a lot of new information on the lives and cultures of Africans prior to their enslavement. Black gave a voice to an old story that was thought by the public to be well-known. This idea reminds me of an article written by Jacqueline Royster titled “When you first hear a voice that is not yours.” Royster describes the importance to tell our own stories and not let an authoritative voice dictate what they are.
It seems that Black’s work is linked to another statement made in Royster’s article where she says, “It is time to speak for ourselves, in our own interests, in the interest of our work, and in the interest of our students” (Royster 11,). Royster states in one of her articles that, “It was time for us to speak our truth, in the interests of our work and students, it’s our right to do so.” Black achieves this through his use of language in The Coming. He uses immersive imagery to convey a story, which has been diluted by others to be less horrific or serious. Black, for example, uses a metanarrative to describe how the enslavers were afraid that the African slaves would plot another rebellion. In response, “They bound one of my sisters with thick cords. Then they lowered the body and lifted it. The lower half of her body was missing when they lifted her up again. It was taken by a sea monster” (58,59). In literature, long sentences with five senses are used to create intense imagery. The reader is then able to visualize a particular scene. Black, however, avoids this, instead using shorter sentences to convey his message and create the same scene as its complex counterpart. Black uses language as a way to expose his audience to what actually happened in the Middle Passage. This work is driven by Black’s imagery, and his attempt to involve his audience. Black’s unique structure and use of repetition are what make his work stand out.
Black mimics the technique of Sonia Sanchez by adding details and repeating phrases. Black says in The Coming: “We sang a dark tune that put us all into a deep trance.” This is when Black has the Africans on board the slaveship. We hummed the whole night. We hummed until the moment we realized that our child or children were home..We…We…Hummed” (71). Black continues his repetition of images to bring out the truths and realities that are affecting the community. Black also uses this text’s strange structure to draw attention. One can easily assume that novels follow a uniform process, such as rising action, climaxes, falling actions, etc. The text must make sense. Black goes against the concept of using words alone to communicate his ideas, which was the original purpose for writing or sharing the text. The reader is unaware of the events that are about to unfold and how long they will last without these “necessary components”. This can be unsettling. Black may have wanted to create this feeling in order to convey to readers the harshness of slavery in Africa. No one was there to save the slaves and bring them back to their western coast. Black has taken out all the logistical planning of placing and planning a novel. However, he manages to do this in such a way as not to appear disorganized. The presence or absence of structure is crucial to understanding the impact this story has on the African American community.
The Coming stands out because Daniel Black stripped away all the standard logistics of a novel to just use his words. This means that the language used in this novel plays a much bigger role than before. Black’s powerful language and its organization throughout the novel are easily recognized by the reader. This is not something that can be said about other historical fiction books.