Black Skin White Masks Chapter 1 Summary by Frantz Fanon

Importance of Language for Negro

Franz Fanon in the first chapter of his work Black Skin, White Masks ascribes the importance of language for the Negro. A Negro has two dimensions:

  1. One with the white men and the other with the black man.
  2. His behaviour with the white man differs from that of the black man.

This is because he is made to believe that “Negro is a stage in the slow evolution of monkey into the man.” Thus for him, the white man is the ultimate stage in this evolution. This fact is even supported by the Christian religion as well.

Religion and Blacks

According to the Bible, white men are the chosen ones and the blacks are blacks because of their sins. A Negro thus thinks that he can break the barrier between him and the white only by mastering the language and assuming the culture of the latter.

This makes him renounce his native language and culture that alienates him from his compatriots. The Negro doing so thus attains a position of honour among his fellow beings. In this regard, the Negro of Antilles will be more close to Whites-or in another words-a man.

Hence “mastery of language affords remarkable power.” A Negro living in France for a period of time undergoes a change. “His phenotype undergoes a definitive and absolute mutation”.

This change does not come to him after visiting France but from the very day when he decides of going to France and after living there he becomes a “new man” for the people belonging to his native country.

Dominance of French Language

The dominance of the French language upon the Negroes is up to this extent that the children of Martinique are forbidden to speak Creole (the Local language) and are forced to adopt the French language in their daily life.

This marks the death of local language among the “new man”. The Negro learns and tries to master the French language because of the fear of being judged by its usage. Those who succeeded in doing so are feared by their fellows as they are assumed to be ‘almost white’.

Change of Negro

A Negro living in France does not change himself under compulsion but he is “jubilant and makes up his mind to change”. This change can be considered as his surrender as he s supposed to face the whole problem and kill his narcissism.

He changes not only because of Montesquieu, Rousseau, and Voltaire but he thinks that France has given him everything. Fanon also criticises the sympathies shown by the Whites to the Negroes. He does not want the Negroes to accept such pities just because of their language.

White in such a situation behaves like an adult with a child. A Russian or German, though speaking French badly will not be criticised as he has a culture and a language of his own that he considers being superior.

Humiliation of Negro

On the other hand, Negro faces humiliation because he gives up his culture and language and thus is without culture and a language of his own and thus he is committed to proving his existence to the white world at all costs.

Whites have a fixed concept of Negro. Fanon cites the example of an English movie (Requins d’acier) in which a Negro is made to show himself as a good nig ger thus making him be shown as of inferior type.

According to Fanon, “the first impulse of the black man is to say no to those who attempt to build a definition of him”. He should have an identity and definition of his own.