A Content Analysis of the Portrayal of Black Male Adolescent Protagonists in Four Novels for Adolescents
Goodwin, Alan Stanley
Carr, John C.
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This study examines the portrayal of black male adolescent protagonists in four novels for adolescents, Sounder by Armstrong, The Contender by Lipsyte, The Learning Tree by Parks and Durango Street by Bonham. Research reveals that reading can influence a person's attitudes, behaviors, and self-image, and, therefore, teachers should be aware of what effects the literature they teach may have on students. This study focuses on black male adolescent protagonists in order to analyze what kinds of literary role models black male adolescent readers are presented with in school. This group is especially important to focus on because many black ma le adolescents struggle without success in our society. The researcher used a modified version of Havighurst's (1952) developmental tasks for adolescents as the basis for the examination of the four novels. The modifications to Havighurst's tasks were based on an ethnic developmental model described by Cross (1971). Content Analysis was the method used to study the developmental progress of the black male protagonists in the novels according to the Havighurst (modified) model. Before beginning the analysis, the researcher determined reliability for conducting the analysis by comparing his analysis of a novel for adolescents, Nitty Gritty by Bonham, that was not a part of the study, with a panel composed of three teachers of English. This procedure determined that the researcher was reliable in using Content Analysis to analyze the selected novels. The researcher then randomly chose three episodes from each novel and conducted a Content Analysis of each episode, indicating the presence/absence of an attempt or achievement of each of the Havighurst’s (modified) tasks. To check the researcher 1 s reliability during the analysis, one of the raters (black male) also coded The Learning Tree, and the correlation from that check indicated a high degree of reliability. The researcher concluded that Sounder, The Contender, and The Learning Tree are novels that have positive depictions of black male role models according to the Havighurst (modified) tasks, but Durango Street does not. This researcher recommends the first three novels for classroom instruction.