Wheatley lived in the middle of the passionate controversies of the times, herself a celebrated cause and mover of events. who is the explicit audience of "on being brought from africa to america" diabolic. Wheatley's revision of this myth possibly emerges in part as a result of her indicative use of italics, which equates Christians, Negros, and Cain (Levernier, "Wheatley's"); it is even more likely that this revisionary sense emerges as a result of the positioning of the comma after the word Negros. Although she was captured and violently brought across the ocean from the west shores of Africa in a slave boat, a frail and naked child of seven or eight, and nearly dead by the time she arrived in Boston, Wheatley actually hails God's kindness for his delivering her from a heathen land. This word functions not only as a biblical allusion, but also as an echo of the opening two lines of the poem: "'Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land, / Taught my benighted soul to understand." From the 1770s, when Phillis Wheatley first began to publish her poems, until the present day, criticism has been heated over whether she was a genius or an imitator, a cultural heroine or a pathetic victim, a woman of letters or an item of curiosity. Wheatley, Phillis, Complete Writings, edited by Vincent Carretta, Penguin Books, 2001. She was in a sinful and ignorant state, not knowing God or Christ. The difficulties she may have encountered in America are nothing to her, compared to possibly having remained unsaved. As life expectancy was short, their numbers had to be continually replenished. The image of night is used here primarily in a Christian sense to convey ignorance or sin, but it might also suggest skin color, as some readers feel. In these ways, then, the biblical and aesthetic subtleties of Wheatley's poem make her case about refinement. 257-77. Western notions of race were still evolving. She is not ashamed of her origins; only of her past ignorance of Christ. She separates herself from the audience of white readers as a black person, calling attention to the difference. Hers is an inclusionary rhetoric, reinforcing the similarities between the audience and the speaker of the poem, indeed all "Christians," in an effort to expand the parameters of that word in the minds of her readers. 1-8" (Mason 75-76). The "authentic" Christian is the one who "gets" the puns and double entendres and ironies, the one who is able to participate fully in Wheatley's rhetorical performance. The impact of the racial problems in Revolutionary America on Wheatley's reputation should not be underrated. Or rather for those that have prejudice against the black race. Among her tests for aesthetic refinement, Wheatley doubtless had in mind her careful management of metrics and rhyme in "On Being Brought from Africa to America." Wheatley's growing fame led Susanna Wheatley to advertise for a subscription to publish a whole book of her poems. The refinement the poet invites the reader to assess is not merely the one referred to by Isaiah, the spiritual refinement through affliction. "On Being Brought from Africa to America Indeed, the idea of anyone, black or white, being in a state of ignorance if not knowing Christ is prominent in her poems and letters. POEM TEXT Wheatley may also be using the rhetorical device of bringing up the opponent's worst criticism in order to defuse it. This same spirit in literature and philosophy gave rise to the revolutionary ideas of government through human reason, as popularized in the Declaration of Independence. And she must have had in mind her subtle use of biblical allusions, which may also contain aesthetic allusions. . The masters, on the other hand, claimed that the Bible recorded and condoned the practice of slavery. The major themes are slavery, Christianity, and redemption. 189, 193. That is, she applies the doctrine to the black race. She wants to inform her readers of the opposite fact—and yet the wording of her confession of faith became proof to later readers that she had sold out, like an Uncle Tom, to her captors' religious propaganda. Therefore, this poem has autobiographical component. While the use of italics for "Pagan" and "Savior" may have been a printer's decision rather than Wheatley's, the words are also connected through their position in their respective lines and through metric emphasis. Phillis Wheatley uses several literary elements to convey her complex but succinct message to the reader, and understanding those methods is vital to grappling with the poem. These were pre-Revolutionary days, and Wheatley imbibed the excitement of the era, recording the Boston Massacre in a 1770 poem. In Jackson State Review, the African American author and feminist Alice Walker makes a similar remark about her own mother, and about the creative black woman in general: "Whatever rocky soil she landed on, she turned into a garden.". Today, a handful of her poems are widely anthologized, but her place in American letters and black studies is still debated. She demonstrates in the course of her art that she is no barbarian from a "Pagan land" who raises Cain (in the double sense of transgressing God and humanity). An example is the precedent of General Colin Powell, who served as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Gulf War (a post equal to Washington's during the Revolution). The European colonization of the Americas inspired a desire for cheap labor for the development of the land. For instance, “On Being Brought from Africa to America,” the best-known Wheatley poem, chides the Great Awakening audience to remember that Africans must be included in the Christian stream: “Remember, Christians, Negroes, black as Cain, /May be refin’d and join th’ angelic train.” In 1773 her Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral (which includes "On Being Brought from Africa. These ideas of freedom and the natural rights of human beings were so potent that they were seized by all minorities and ethnic groups in the ensuing years and applied to their own cases. This latter point refutes the notion, held by many of Wheatley's contemporaries, that Cain, marked by God, is the progenitor of the black race only. Jefferson, a Founding Father and thinker of the new Republic, felt that blacks were too inferior to be citizens. 27, No. Like many Christian poets before her, Wheatley's poem also conducts its religious argument through its aesthetic attainment. She places everyone on the same footing, in spite of any polite protestations related to racial origins. For the unenlightened reader, the poems may well seem to be hackneyed and pedestrian pleas for acceptance; for the true Christian, they become a validation of one's status as a member of the elect, regardless of race …. Wheatley was bought as a starving child and transformed into a prodigy in a few short years of training. In spiritual terms both white and black people are a "sable race," whose common Adamic heritage is darkened by a "diabolic die," by the indelible stain of original sin. She notes that the poem is "split between Africa and America, embodying the poet's own split consciousness as African American." If she had left out the reference to Cain, the poem would simply be asserting that black people, too, can be saved. Judging from a full reading of her poems, it does not seem likely that she herself ever accepted such a charge against her race. Over a third of her poems in the 1773 volume were elegies, or consolations for the death of a loved one. Of course, Wheatley's poetry does document a black experience in America, namely, Wheatley's alone, in her unique and complex position as slave, Christian, American, African, and woman of letters. No wonder, then, that thinkers as great as Jefferson professed to be puzzled by Wheatley's poetry. 36, No. In this, she asserts her religion as her priority in life; but, as many commentators have pointed out, it does not necessarily follow that she condones slavery, for there is evidence that she did not, in such poems as the one to Dartmouth and in the letter to Samson Occom. . … In this poem Wheatley finds various ways to defeat assertions alleging distinctions between the black and the white races (O'Neale). Audience-- Bias--Cause The Intended audience to me is for white colonists that have a view on Blacks as ‘Anti-Christian’. She proved … . In the case of her readers, such failure is more likely the result of the erroneous belief that they have been saved already. POEM SUMMARY Which Of The Following Identification Procedures Is Generally The Most Likely To Be Suggestive?, She did not mingle with the other servants but with Boston society, and the Wheatley daughter tutored her in English, Latin, and the Bible. A detailed summary and explanation of Lines 1-4 in On Being Brought from Africa to America by Phillis Wheatley. 61, 1974, pp. In this verse, however, Wheatley has adeptly managed biblical allusions to do more than serve as authorizations for her writing; as finally managed in her poem, these allusions also become sites where this license is transformed into an artistry that in effect becomes exemplarily self-authorized. And indeed, Wheatley's use of the expression "angelic train" probably refers to more than the divinely chosen, who are biblically identified as celestial bodies, especially stars (Daniel 12:13); this biblical allusion to Isaiah may also echo a long history of poetic usage of similar language, typified in Milton's identification of the "gems of heaven" as the night's "starry train" (Paradise Lost 4:646). © 2019 Encyclopedia.com | All rights reserved. She also indicates, apropos her point about spiritual change, that the Christian sense of Original Sin applies equally to both races. Her biblically authorized claim that the offspring of Cain "may be refin'd" to "join th' angelic train" transmutes into her self-authorized artistry, in which her desire to raise Cain about the prejudices against her race is refined into the ministerial "angelic train" (the biblical and artistic train of thought) of her poem. AUTHOR BIOGRAPHY Write an essay and give evidence for your findings from the poems and letters and the history known about her life. Carretta, Vincent, and Philip Gould, Introduction, in Genius in Bondage: Literature of the Early Black Atlantic, edited by Vincent Carretta and Philip Gould, University Press of Kentucky, 2001, pp. That Wheatley sometimes applied biblical language and allusions to undercut colonial assumptions about race has been documented (O'Neale), and that she had a special fondness for the Old Testament prophecies of Isaiah is intimated by her verse paraphrase entitled "Isaiah LXIII. She had not been able to publish her second volume of poems, and it is thought that Peters sold the manuscript for cash. This question was discussed by the Founding Fathers and the first American citizens as well as by people in Europe. However, in the speaker's case, the reason for this failure was a simple lack of awareness. She writes how she was lucky to come to America from Africa and it introduced her to Christianity. The definition of pagan, as used in line 1, is thus challenged by Wheatley in a sense, as the poem celebrates that the term does not denote a permanent category if a pagan individual can be saved. This phrase can be read as Wheatley's effort to have her privileged white audience understand for just a moment what it is like to be singled out as "diabolic." Saint Etienne - Only Love, Using Primary and Secondary Sources to Analyze “On Being Brought from Africa to America” (Phillis Wheatley) Lesson Plan (1-2 days) for 11th Grade ELA Designed by K. McGriff, using materials from African Americans in the Making of Early New England (an NEH Landmarks of American History and Culture Workshop, presented by the Pocumtuck Valley Deposit, on the other she intimates certain racial implications that are conventional... 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