Ralph Ellison, “Living with Music” in FGE

Ralph Ellison, “Living with Music” in FGE

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I. Discussion Questions:

1) Ellison’s essay is about his relationship to music, but it is also tells the story of how he became a writer. What do you think about the connection between these two themes? How are music and writing related in general? How about for Ellison?
2) Ellison organizes his essay around a series of other characters, including various other tenants in his apartment building; drunk preachers who frequent his neighborhood; etc. Discuss Ellison’s relationship to several of these characters. Which of them does Ellison identify with most strongly? Why? What point is he trying to make by way of these examples? What does Ellison say explicitly about the feeling of “identification” (FGE 109)?
3) What do you think are the most important aspects of Ellison’s musical education? What do his grade school teachers think about classical music and jazz? How does his musical education form his cultural identity? How does it relate to the writing persona—or writing “voice”—he later developed?
4) Describe the tone and style of Ellison’s writing. Cite some examples to support your claims. What does Ellison’s writing style reveal about how music (classical music or jazz) has influenced him?

DiYanni, Robert. Fifty Great Essays. 5th ed. Boston: Longman, 2013.


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