How the Dictionary Set Malcolm X Free
During his incarceration in the Norfolk Prison Colony, Malcolm X discovered that through expanding his comprehension of the English language he not only gained the ability to communicate better but he also achieved a sense of freedom. In this selection from The Autobiography of Malcolm X (1964) he shares his experience with coming to grasp with the English language and how it helped him ascend from a life as a street criminal to cultural icon. It was enlightening to learn how someone from this sort of background, with the proper motivation, was able raise their social status as well as their perceived intelligence among not just their peers but throughout the community as a whole.
Having never given much thought to Malcolm X, I do find it interesting to learn where he was in his life prior to his rise as an icon among the African American community. This selection gives some interesting insight into how a street criminal was able to better himself through education. It is impressive to learn of the determination that he had to create a comprehensive understanding of our language. For anyone to be able to copy the entire dictionary by hand, clearly demonstrates an extreme desire to learn. Although Malcolm X never directly states his true motivation for his efforts, he does on multiple occasions make reference to the teachings of Mr. Elijah Mohammad, Allah, and Islam; one could easily make the conclusion that he had a strong desire to spread the teachings of these entities.
Clearly Malcolm X was able to climb beyond his criminal beginnings and through determined efforts build a life for himself that would never have been possible without his understanding the English language. As he gives witness to the fact that as his “word-base broadened,” (43) and he was better able to comprehend everything that he read and learned, he truly gained a sense of freedom unlike any he had previously experienced in his lifetime.