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The main theme of oppression can be connected to racism, which played a key component in the story. The oppression of Helga Crane's identity can be seen in the protagonist's inability to free herself from the influence of others' opinions regarding her engagement to James Vayle. She felt that her engagement was frowned upon because she was biracial and did not have a strong, supportive family. In contrast, her fiancee was solely African-American and belonged to a respected family. This also exemplifies oppression regarding the aspect of Helga's isolation from her peers.
Dr. Anderson, the dean of the school, gives a speech to Helga about how the wearing of colors by African-American women is "not becoming." Oppression can be seen in this conversation because it shows not only racism but misogyny as well because Dr. Anderson attempts to take away African-American women's right to "shine" and express themselves by insulting the idea of them wearing colors.
When Helga goes to the employment office to find work she is turned away at first because she is overeducated for the work being offered, which is mainly domestic. This shows oppression because women at this time were still expected to do mostly domestic work rather than have other careers such as Helga's chosen profession of teaching.
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