Ap english Literature Exploring the Human Condition

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AP English Literature Exploring the Human Condition

  • Presented By: Myka Lowery
  • Arielle Pierre – Louis
  • By: Nikki Giovanni
  • “Choices”

“Choices” by Nikki Giovanni (June 8, 1982)

  • Nikki Giovanni is an African American woman writer who began her career during the 1960s when the black renaissance was coming about. Giovanni grew up in an all-black community in Cincinnati, Ohio named Lincoln Heights during the 1950s experiencing the difficulties and hardships that black people had to face. Eventually she moved the Knoxville, Tennessee to live with grandparents. Throughout this period, her father past June 8, 1982. Due to this, her grandmother being major inspiration for her and the black renaissance as her window of opportunity, Giovanni created the poem “Choices” as a reflection of her emotions and experiences as an African American woman.

Prompt & Thesis

  • The following poem was written by a twentieth century poet, Nikki Giovanni. Write an essay in which you analyze how the complexity of the speaker’s attitude develops revealing the meaning of the work through such devices as diction, tone, and figurative language.
  • Though there are limitations to the choices we make, we do have the choice to be satisfied with what we do have or be miserable due to what we do.


Main theme Confinement / Entrapment

  • “…I can’t do what I want to do…”
  • “… I can’t have what I want…”
  • “I can’t go where I need to go…”
  • “…When I can’t express what I really feel…”
  • As human beings we have choices but these choices are limited to what society deems as acceptable.


  • Giovanni goes to Nashville to enroll in Fisk University—her grandfather’s alma mater—as an Early Entrant.  Academics present no problem to her, but she is unprepared for the conservatism of this small black college.  Almost from the outset she runs into trouble with the Dean of Women, Ann Cheatam, whose ideas about the behavior and attitudes appropriate to a Fisk woman are diametrically opposed to Giovanni’s ideas about the intellectual seriousness and political awareness appropriate to a college student.  In November, she goes back to Knoxville to spend Thanksgiving with her grandparents—without obtaining the necessary permission from Dean Cheatam.  Just to compound the problem, when she visits Dean Cheatam the Monday after Thanksgiving, she articulates her contempt for the rules Dean Cheatam has in place.  Not surprisingly, she is expelled from Fisk on 1 February.  She goes back to Cincinnati where she lives with her parents.  Her grandmother, far from uttering any reproach, travels to Nashville to meet with Dean Cheatam and later writes a letter protesting her decision.


  • As a result of the constraint vested upon us by society, we tend to rebel against a society that confines our freedom to choose. This way, we at least hold the freedom to choose what we’d rather not do.
  • The mere fact that we can overpower the supremacy of a nation by having the power to control what we don’t want to do in an environment which manages what it wants us to do, our rebellion grants us our freedom both mentally and physically.
  • “If I can’t do what I want to do then my job is to not do what I don’t want to do…”
  • confinement/ Entrapment initiates in us a desire to freedom/ escape which is a consequence of…


  • Moves back to Cincinnati, having completed her undergraduate coursework in December.  Rents her own apartment.  Receives her B.A. in History, with honors, on 28 January.
  • Grandmother Louvenia Watson dies on 8 March, just two days before she was to have come to Cincinnati for a visit.  Giovanni drives her mother, sister, and nephew to Knoxville for the funeral, marking the most significant loss of her life, before or since.  She turns to writing as a refuge and produces most of the poems that will comprise her first volume,Black Feeling Black Talk

Confinement/ Entrapment can be for human beings a benefactor because it pushes us to endure

  •  ~ In the poem Nikki Giovanni expresses this by saying, This means that because people understand that bad things can and will happen we can help ourselves and prosper.
  • ~ In doing so promotes hope, growth, and change.
  • ~ These lines are the most significant to the idea that struggles are, pretty much, the base for making choices by explaining common human nature.
  • “If I can’t have what I want… my job is to want what I’ve got and be satisfied that at least there is something more to want”
  • “…Through always understanding parallel movement isn’t lateral…”
  • Strength
  • “…I know but that’s why mankind alone among the animals learn to cry .”



  • “What Happened to Lincoln Heights, One of America’s First Black Suburbs”
  • 1960s
  • Lower Class
  • African Americans came here from the violence and economic constraints of the south. Other places prohibited black families by law to not by homes in city neighborhoods. Developers started selling lots and black people took the opportunity.
  • Together we prosper.

Lincoln Heights


  • “When did each of the Ivy League colleges start admitting women?”
  • 1970s
  • All classes
  • “Standards Lowered” to accept women
  • Women had to choose or settle for any other college due to the fact they were women.

Women sent to other colleges


  • “Good Times”
  • 1974 – 1979
  • lower class
  • Cabrini Green (worst projects in Chicago)
  • Settled just as Nikki Giovanni had to growing up in Lincoln Heights
  • Had to make the best of the situation.
  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HrDyP4PeHB4

How It All Comes Together

  • We make choices but they will not always be the choice that we want. Sometimes settling and being satisfied with what we can choose is the only way to truly be happy with the choices we’ve made for the reasons we’ve made them.


  • https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HrDyP4PeHB4
  • http://www.nber.org/digest/jan07/w12139.html
  • https://www.quora.com/When-did-each-of-the-Ivy-League-colleges-start-admitting-women
  • http://www.theatlantic.com/business/archive/2015/07/lincoln-heights-black-suburb/398303/
  • http://toocoolforpoetry.blogspot.com/p/choices.html
  • http://www.poetryfoundation.org/bio/nikki-giovanni
  • https://bellebookworm.wordpress.com/2013/04/24/literary-critique-choices-by-nikki-giovanni/
  • http://nikki-giovanni.com/timeline.php

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