The X in My Name, An Analysis

The X in My Name, An Analysis
This poem written by Francisco Alarcon describes the life of an illiterate man who finds himself signing away his freedom by placing his mark on a contract. He is unable to read the contract he is signing or even write his name. Being unable to read he leaves himself vulnerable to be taken advantage of and deceived. Alarcon, who was raised in a Hispanic community, was surrounded by illiteracy. Wanting to change the situation in which he was raised in he went to school to become a teacher and now focuses his efforts on eliminating illiteracy.
This poem was written from the experience of watching those he cared about around him being taken advantage of because they were unable to read or write. ?The X in My Name? shows the mistakes and ill consequences that illiteracy can bring upon those uneducated. It also sheds light onto how social structure and financial class play into illiteracy, and how detrimental illiteracy can be to those on the low end of the monetary spectrum. Though Alarcon only uses a few words it is easy to understand and see how the illiterate can be effortlessly be taken advantage of.

The ?X? has a long history dating back to the days of the peasants and of America?s Negro slaves. When faced with a legal document requiring a signature those who were unable to read or write were asked to leave their mark, customarily an X thus showing their consent. During the American Revolution and the Civil War slaves were recruited for battle and many were asked to leave their mark signing up for war. The X has become the customary signature for those who were uneducated in writing skills, and unable to sign their name. This practice is still in effect today. In 1870 20 percent of white Americans and 80 percent of black Americans were illiterate. Miraculously enough in the past 130 years those figures have drastically changed. We can proudly say that these figures are less than 2 percent for both demographics combined.

Like in the poem, illiteracy leaves a person vulnerable to be taken advantage of. This poor soul unknowingly signed away the rights to his own freedom by leaving his mark. This scenario has been played out numerous times throughout history. The crippling effects that illiteracy inflicts on a person leave them at risk for crooks to take advantage of them. By being unable to read or write the uneducated are unable to know that they are being taken for a ride until it is too late.

Social structure and financial class come into play as a factor of illiteracy. Those in minority groups or those from low-incomes have a higher risk of illiteracy. Though the numbers have drastically changed the Negro and Hispanic communities still have the highest rates of illiteracy. These areas tend to have lower incomes, thus resulting in a lack of funding for schools, and less funding means fewer teachers, and so the process repeats itself on generation after generation. Illiteracy crushes dreams on so many levels. Those who are illiterate are unable to function in successful, well-paying jobs and in turn it cause the family to struggle.

Children who have parents who are illiterate are at a higher risk of becoming illiterate themselves. Parents who are unable to read or write are incapable of reading to their children and so their children never learn to appreciate the fulfillment that literacy can bring at an early age. Children who are given the firm building blocks of reading at an early age are given a priceless gift that will stand by them throughout their entire life.

We have seen the tragic consequences that illiteracy can have on those who are inflicted by this handicap, but the dangers of illiteracy stretch far beyond signing a bad contract or even the inability to pull ones self out of poverty by finding a good career. Illiteracy can be extremely dangerous. A person who illiterate is unable to read a medicine bottle for dosage information, to read if mixing certain chemicals is hazardous or even deadly. Illiteracy can put it victims and those around them in grave danger.

Alarcon wrote this poem to display the importance that literacy plays in our world. As a teacher he dedicates himself to the cause of fighting illiteracy and making this world a better place for all of those who want it. He grew up seeing the struggles that this silent handicap caused on those around him, and he now spends his time teaching those from that same community where he grew up to read and write.

Literacy is not just something that teachers push on their students because they want them to read a book or write an essay. It is important for every element of life. Those who make the effort to better themselves through literacy will shelter themselves from the fate of the poor peasant in this poem. For those in poverty, literacy may be the first step out of poverty and up into success.

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