By the end of the Autobiography of Malcolm X, Malcolm is made out to seem like a saint, when in reality that doesn’t seem to be the case. At the time that the book was being viewed as a bad guy, especially compared to Martin Luther King Jr, so maybe this book was written as an attempt to show him in a better light and this book being written by Alex Haley through interviews with Malcolm X. Through his change from Atheism to Islam, he’s made to seem like a good, positive role model, when at the time he was described as violent and dangerous.
The structure of the story makes it seem like he goes from bad to good with his change from Atheism to Islam. Back when Malcolm was in jail, he was an atheist and called Satan but when he converted to Islam he quickly turned his life around to be good. At the beginning of chapter 10, Malcolm is introduced as an atheist and earned himself the nickname “Satan”, “In eight to ten seconds, Shorty had turned as atheist as I had been to start with… Eventually, the men in the cellblock had a name for me: ‘Satan’. Because of my antireligious attitude.” At this point in the book, he is referred to as the devil by the other prisoners, which would make you think bad of him, so later he and Alex Haley would have to shed that name. His transition from bad to good is almost literal in this chapter. Later in jail, Malcolm has a letter sent to him from Reginald that his first steps to becoming were to stop eating pork and smoking, and the second he does people start seeing him in a more positive light, which made him proud. In chapter 10 it says, “Reginald’s letter was newsy and it also contained instructions: ‘Malcolm don’t eat pork and don’t smoke anymore cigarettes’… I said to him, ‘I don’t eat pork’… It was the funniest thing and the way it spread… It was being mentioned all over the cell block by night, that Satan didn’t eat pork. It made me very proud in some odd way.” At this point in the chapter, it seems that Malcolm is turning his life around, but it’s obvious that it’s for all the wrong reasons because right before he takes his first steps to convert to Islam, he was told it would help him get out of jail and he enjoyed the good attention that he got from it. These examples show that Malcolm’s entire conversion to Islam was built on something other than redemption, which would explain why Alex Haley decided to write and publish the book centering around what a hero he was and his pure intentions.
The fact that Alex Haley chose to surround the plot Malcolm being a fantastic guy after his change to Islam makes him seem almost exaggerated like he did no wrong after. At the beginning of his time as a Muslim, he believes that all white men are the devil, but after his trip to the Mecca the book makes it seem like he wants everyone to be unified and like he has such a positive outlook on life, but that clearly wasn’t the case as in real life he was known for violence, especially compared to Martin Luther King Jr. In chapter 13, Malcolm believes that white people are the devil. According to chapter 13, “I want you when you leave this room to start to see all this devil white man. Oh, yes he’s a devil!… Every time you see a white man think about the devil you’re seeing! Think of how it was on your slave foreparents’ bloody, sweaty backs that he built this empire that’s today the richest of all nations…” At this point, Malcolm is following a leader who preaches about how awful white people are, so of course, he believes it too and later when we see him travel to and from Mecca, was led to believe his beliefs did a complete 180. After he takes his trip to Mecca, the plot of the book makes it seem like he changed his view on white people, but I don’t think this is completely accurate. In chapter 17, Malcolm preaches about all races being good and equal. According to chapter 17, “I said, ‘the brotherhood! The people of all races, colors, from all over the world coming together as one! It has proved to me the power of one God.’” As the plot progresses, Malcolm goes from a hypocrite, who wanted equality but hated white people to someone who preached about loving everyone, which in my opinion doesn’t seem very accurate.
By the end of the book, Malcolm seems to preach to everyone about how important equality is and how everyone should make an effort to change their ways. By the end of the book, though, he holds meetings for an African American based organization and claims that everyone from every religion is welcome but doesn’t include white people. According to chapter 19, “The American white man has so thoroughly brainwashed the black man to see himself as only a domestic ‘civil rights’ problem that it will probably take longer than I live before the Negro sees that the struggle of the American black man is international.” Even toward the end of the book, he says he stands with the non-racist whites but even then, that doesn’t promote the equality that he wants to be spread across the world. According to chapter 19, ‘I am for violence if non-violence means we continue postponing a solution to the American black man’s problem just to avoid violence. I don’t go for non-violence if it also means a delayed solution.” This quote helps us to see the real Malcolm, and how he doesn’t care what it takes to get what he wants for the black community. I feel that the point of this chapter is to try to get people to understand where Malcolm was coming from and why he did what he did. If anything, it just proves that this book was written to show Malcolm in a better light.
Alex Haley and Malcolm X used this book to get rid of some of the negativity behind his name and the fact that it was associated with violence, especially when being compared to someone like Martin Luther King Jr. Malcolm went from being in prison and being called Satan by other prisoners, to someone who lived a Muslim lifestyle. That Muslim lifestyle included traveling to and from Mecca, giving up pork and cigarettes, and trying to better himself. The book makes it seem like after this transition, Malcolm is a great example of the ideal American, which would be someone who cared about making everyone feel involved, but in reality, he seemed to be doing the opposite. While this is an interesting book that dives into what Malcolm X is like and why he is the way he is, shouldn’t it be more real than what we want him to be? Shouldn’t he be more real with how he acts in real life in the book instead of trying to come off as someone completely different so he doesn’t have to look like a bad guy compared to Martin Luther King Jr.?