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Literatura de Estados Unidos desde los orígenes hasta el siglo XIX· 1

JOHN SMITH - THE GENERAL HISTORY OF VIRGINIA


The settler makes history, his life is époque, an odyssey. He is the absolute
beginning. Thus, the history which he writes is not the history of the country which he
plunders, but the history of his own nation in regard to all that it is skimmed off or that
is violated and starved in its name.
The history of the future United States is written by the settlers like John Smith:
the point of view of the white man. In his chronicle, we are not going to read the history
of the inhabitants of America, but the history of settler's own nation (England) with their
own point of view.
The new world to be conquered was a utopian necessity in the mind of Medieval
Age. When Columbus arrived there, he supposed he had arrived in India and his
knowledge arrives to us through a Renaissance mind.
John Smith, an Englishman, described the American natives through the topics
and images of the Renaissance culture. His books do not have a realistic description of
the new world. He takes the prejudices, images, ideas and culture of the precedent
authors (Spanish and Portuguese chronicles). But his vision is, at the same time,
completely different from the Spanish settlers' vision (Protestant vs. Catholic vision).
Distopia: After the 19th century, the image of America as the world of richness
and plenty was substituted by this term. Distopia is a land of humiliation and
dispossession. The vision shown by authors with this point of view would become a
different history.
There were two ways of arriving at the new world and, in consequence, two
points of view:
a) John Smith and the English settlers: They arrived in Jamestown,
Virginia (southern territories), which were colonized and settled by -mainly-
Protestants. Their principal intention was to conquest new land.
b) Puritans, with William Bradford: English Protestants that belonged to
one of the most radical groups of Protestantism. They arrived in Plymouth,
Massachusetts (northern territories) escaping from religious persecution.
Both arrived at the beginning of the 17th century, while Spanish settlers were there
from the end of the 15th century. When John Smith arrived, he had already read and
studied the chronicles and texts that Spanish conquerors (like Cortés) had written, the
histories that English Elizabethan travelers had written about the new world and the
classic chronicles.
One of the ways to justify the killing of the native population and the
dispossession of their lands would be to describe them as different as possible from the
Europeans, to describe then as the savage, using all the images that for Europeans
implied non-humanity (barbarity). The more savage the Indian is, the more justified the
white destruction of this people is. Cannibalism represented the worst feature with
which people could be described (also used for blacks).
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Before going to the new world, John Smith had been going around Europe
working as a soldier. For this adventurer, America represented a new place where he
could test himself, become a hero.
Differently from the Puritans, John Smith experiences some adventures and goes
back to England. He wrote several texts, the most important of them is The General
History of Virginia because with this text he wrote the first chronicle written by an
Englishman. He took into account characteristics of this new land, not only the
curiosities, but also the richness that this new land symbolized for those who were
willing to work hard and succeed. This text is the chronicle of the description of
Indians, experiences of this group of settlers. But the most important is his role as a
hero.
His vision is already American and he is trying to attract other people to the
colonization project that English have assorted.
Settler would be involved in very conservational relationship with each other.
Thanks to Smith's bravery, his own skills, he would become the first American hero of
this epic. He justifies his reputation, clearing his name, making himself the hero.
Characteristics of Pocahontas: genteel savage (beaux savage), image of ideal
beauty, arcadia happiness possible, perfect balance between nature and civilization
(Renaissance idea).
John Smith wrote about his experience with Indians in a first text from 1608. In it,
Pocahontas does not appear at all. It was in 1624 that he rewrote and expanded the
original text. There he introduced Pocahontas, their encounter and told how the
daughter of the king (term he projects into Indian aristocracy  hierarchical
categories), who was not a common Indian, saved him from death.
The real story of Pocahontas is that she was a king's daughter, she married an
English soldier who went with John Smith, she converted to Protestantism, she traveled
to England with her husband, she was received by Queen Anne, had a baby and died
when she was 21. She died in 1617, seven years before John Smith rewrote his General
History of Virginia.
The episode of Pocahontas was later on manipulated and re-interpreted by
American writers until the 20th century (Walt Disney version).
When John Smith writes about Pocahontas, he is using a historical event, but he is
also adding a classic image that we can see in world ethics. When a conqueror arrives at
a new land, conquers it, annexes that land to his own country and is recognized by the
native inhabitants as superior. To do this he uses the image of a human interracial
intercultural love.
The act of Pocahontas (p721) has two meanings:
a) She recognizes the superiority of the colonizer, the heroic qualities of
the invaders.
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b) Her act is an act of betrayal to her own people because she disobeys his
father (who is also the tribe chief).
This acceptation of the conqueror remembers us the paper of Hernán Cortés in
Mexico, where inhabitants are described as Hijos de la chingada. In Crónica de la
conquista de Nueva España, written by a Cortés partner, the author talks about a woman
called la Malinche, who betrayed her own people and became Cortés' mistress. She had
a son, the first of the hybrid race that would constitute the Mexican race. La Malinche is
very important in her role as an interpreter, as a mediator between the Indian world and
the western culture, symbolized by Cortés. Cortés never married la Malinche; she was
interpreted as la chingada and their sons as bastards. This story would be later on
interpreted by feminists as a kidnap and Mexicans consider themselves as sons of a
historical rape.
What Pocahontas represents when she submits to the heroic conqueror attitude is
the destruction of the Indian masculinity and the possibility for the conqueror to
describe Indian men as either cruel savages or child-like creatures (feminized).
Pocahontas symbolized the land that is feminized; thus, it could be taken by European
conquerors as a woman expecting a man to be completed. That destroyed the native
masculinity. We get the impression that Indian native men were lazy, they did not fulfill
male activities, unable of standing face to face with a white male.
Pocahontas is depicted in some instances as a half-naked woman showing her
breasts and embracing John Smith in a maternal-erotic way because America, in
Spanish and English texts, was represented as a virgin land, as a land to be exploited,
conquered, sexually possessed, as a land full of richness to be taken by the conquerors.
Also, America is sometimes depicted as a goddess of abundance with many children
around her and her teats.
In the 18th century, when America was practically empty and the process of
immigration and settling was starting, Pocahontas story was interpreted taking into
account the historical events: her marriage with the Englishman is emphasized because
that story provides a possibility to encourage the mixing between Europeans and
Indians and also a way to populate the vast continent.
With Romanticism, the legend of Pocahontas is re-interpreted. The real marriage
is ignored. At a time when Indians where disappearing, Indian tribes are pushed into
the corners of the continent, the image of the vanishing Indian appears: the Indian that
symbolizes the last of that race. The relationship between Pocahontas and John Smith is
re-interpreted in terms of romantic love with an unhappy ending because at that time
(Romanticism, 19th century) America could not recognize the possibility of racial
mixing. Indians were shattered, slaughtered and reduced to the reservations.
In 1814, white missionaries are trying to convert the Indians  picture of the
baptism of Pocahontas. It represented the possibility of conversion.
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This dead love story was never written by John Smith. Romanticism made later
interpretations on this classic motive.
Another feature John Smith used to become a hero was the usage of the 3rd person
singular instead 1st person to refer to himself. Thus, there is no "I" but "Captain Smith",
as if the chronicle had been written by a scribe. Besides, there are other characters who
enhance and highlight Smith's superiority. Thus, he became a sort of knight of these
medieval renaissances but with an important difference: whereas there was a love affair
between the knight and mademoiselle, there was never such love affair with
Pocahontas, although it changed later in other texts that retook the story.
"Those who work hard are industrious". He did not only bring a divine project
conquering the new land, but also an economic project for he had not only power to
command but also to work himself. He never escapes industry and works hard, meaning
that if they work hard they will succeed. America was a land for trading and exploiting.
He does not go there to explore but to profit and come back as a rich man. He is face to
face to Indian perils (weapons, language), so he is a lonely hero as in Western films,
skillful to summon all difficulties.
Page 17:
- He has many problems about his superiority.
- Indians become more hostile.
- He is admired but kept as prisoner.
Page 19:
- Introduces Indian vision of time: linear conception (Europe) vs. circular
conception (Indians).
- Compares two visions: being in the middle means that Indians might be
consumed and assimilated by Europeans.
- No way for a pacific encounter; Indians must disappear and be despised.
Page 20:
- After being despised by his companions, he is sentenced to death by a native
girl.

WILLIAM BRADFORD - OF PLYMOUTH PLANTATION


Of Plymouth Plantation is a colonial chronicle written by a puritan who became
governor of the Plymouth plantation. This chronicle has two books different in form and
in context. To understand the American way of life and its attitude towards themselves
and the world, we must read this book.
Puritans were the people who arrived in 1620 in the northeastern coast of
America, in Plymouth (near nowadays Boston). They were the first to settle in those
territories and the ones who coined the image of America as it is still understood in the
third millennium by the majority of Americans.
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Puritans are English Protestants who are not happy with the separation as it was
(schism and split-up in Catholics and Protestants). They wanted their religion to be
more similar to the primitive times of Christianity in order to be purer  Puritanism.
They wanted to purify even more their religious rites and doctrines, because they were
unhappy with the Anglican Church.
At the beginning of the 17th century, they were considered a group of radicals,
fundamentalists in their new reading of the Bible. They thought the Anglican Church
was still too close to the Church of Rome. Thus, they did not recognize the authority of
the Pope; they did not believe in a hierarchy, the Virgin Mary, saints and martyrs; they
did not believe in the existence of mediators between men and God.
"I have always believed that this land was placed here between the two
great oceans by some divine plan. It was places here to be found by a
special kind of people, people who had a special love for freedom and
who had the courage to uproot themselves and leave home and come to
what, in the beginning was the most undeveloped wilderness possible".
Ronald Reagan.
Americans tend to believe in a kind of national God which is the essential
structure of the country politics. They are convinced that they are the chosen people to
safeguard the world's freedom. Ronald Reagan's words are purely rhetoric. This type of
discourse is more stressed with conservative leaders. God is a private thing for
Europeans but for Americans God is public, which matches with the Puritans' point of
view.
The Puritans were a group of radicals who wanted to escape from England. The
new territories had been already explored, so this was an ideal place to build their new
world in those lands. They were prosecuted in England and went to Holland, but things
were not as they expected, so they went to the new world. Holland was a place of
freedom and respect so the religious idea Puritans had could not grow in Holland.
The first Puritans arrived in America in 1620, leaving England as a prosecuted
people. They leaved not because they wanted to but because they wanted to build up a
new society which followed their religious doctrines. First Puritans were called
separatists because of their desire to be far apart from Catholics. They considered
themselves special people, they wanted to turn to a primitive religion. They are the
children of God, like the children of Israel. Thus, America belonged to them by right
since the beginning of times, like the Promised Land. When they arrived at their land,
they went to build a city on a hill, a new Jerusalem. It was their right and responsibility
to clear and clean that land for them and their children and the native inhabitants could
be annihilated because they were occupying Puritan's land. As the truthful children of
God, whatever they would do, God would be behind them, looking after the Puritans
and, in consequence, the Americans. This vision is up to now current.
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Puritans were the first to establish the image of America as it is now, and with
them started the history of this country.
When there is a crisis, people go back to a past myth, manipulating and re-
interpreting it to serve their own purposes. The Iraq war was thus justified as a means of
a crusade.
Fashion was a way of distinguishing the religious sects Puritans belonged to.
Quakers dressed in black, white and grey, looking for simplicity.
One of the main differences between Catholics and Protestants is the power of
writing and reading. While in Catholic countries literacy was confined to the finest
classes (aristocracy, nobility) and to men mainly, in Protestant countries writing was a
quite common phenomenon. Protestants (also Puritans) believe that there is no
mediation between God and individuals, who could speak directly to God. They did not
believe in the doctrine of good works. For them, everything is part of a plan
(predestination). Their destiny is written before they are born. In consequence, they
have to work on the Bible (the word of God) to find the key that would reveal them
whether they are among the chosen ones or not. Besides, everyday life is full of signs to
tell them about their salvation and the presence of God. They must look into their
hearts analyzing everything, trying to discover the presents of God there. They do it by
reading the Bible, thinking, trying to find parallelisms between their lives and these
described in the Bible. Thus, Puritans baptized their children with biblical names and
found similarities on them. That's why they all read and write in a higher range than
Catholics.
Diaries or journals were very important for Puritans in order to make religious
introspection and look for God's presence in daily life. These were the most written
forms of literature for Protestants. Their writing of diaries can help the believer to see if
God manifests himself in the things they do in everyday life. Hence, nature takes a
symbolical meaning. Everything (suffering, pain, grieve) is a manifestation of God's
protection. In fact, nowadays Americans prefer postcards and letters and we, Spaniards,
prefer phone calls and meetings.
These societies are more democratic, because the participation of the people was
more important, starting in the negotiation of their salvation in religion.
Protestantism related to capitalism (Weber). God manifests himself to one of the
elect by making him successful as regards money: image of a self-made man. If you are
poor, you can become rich someday. Catholics believe that we are born poor and we
will die ever poorer, there is no capacity to overcome our problems. The American
ethics believe that no matter how miserable you are because you can reach the top
thanks to hard work, thanks to individualism. Ambition is a positive feature in
American society. The most famous presidents like Bush or Reagan were casual
common people; they were ones among the people. Europeans ask support from family
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and society whereas in America the individual is always alone. In this myth of the
American self-made man sometimes women are not included.
Predestination means that God decided, in the beginning of times, those who
would be saved and those who would not. They do not have models (saints) because
they cannot judge anybody. They only know about the salvation through the Bible
(called the book).
George Bush, together with Reagan are terrorists of the past, they manipulate it,
look back into the Puritan times of the country. They approach this past in the way they
want. It is a biased manipulation of a national history. All these people make a profit of
these interpretations. For Americans, the basis of the fantasy of an American identity
starts with the Puritans.
William Bradford was the governor of Plymouth for about 30 years. His two
books have been taken for a long time as history but after the 60's there has been a great
debate on the status of history. So what is history? The came out with history is fiction
and fiction is history. When a historian has written down the history of some people,
they have implemented literary strategies. History is thus surrendered to the reader
using literary patterns; we should read it as fiction. The writer has access to some
information but the way he uses to present that information is subjective and very much
dependant on the writer's ideology. William Bradford's text is that type of
historiographical narrative taken as history nowadays and originally conceived as a
book. He is a writer, he highlights things, silences some other.
Up to the 20th century, the history of a people was the history of the leaders, their
big people (e.g. in England the history of aristocracy). Then in the 20th century,
according to the ideology, we'll get view of low classes (Marxism), struggle between
middle and low classes, women, ethnic minorities…
The type of history Bradford manipulates is providential history. For Bradford
and other historians at the time, history is true when it reflects God's will into men's
affairs. Writing history is important because it becomes a way of instruction for later
generations.

Book I
It was written by Bradford in 1630, ten years after the Puritans had arrived in the
new world. He wrote at this date because in 1630 another group of Protestants arrived
with slightly different ideas about religion. These first puritans believed in a radical
separation from the Anglican Church, while this 2nd group did not stress that separation
so much. So Bradford, believing this second group could destroy their principle role,
their achievements in the new world, wrote the first book of the chronicle emphasizing
their peculiar unique role.
Here he relates in a narrative form the events that took place from their escape
from England, their settlement in Holland, the new departure and the settlement in
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Plymouth. Bradford tells the reader how God leads his people out of a corrupt land into
a new land where they can prosper. He tries to justify the origins of the plantation and
has very little to do with history but a lot with myth. He is writing a myth of origins
because all countries and civilizations need have mythical origins, a legend explaining
and justifying later history.
Book II
It was written between 1644 and 1650, using the form of annals, that is,
chronologically developed, so the structure is very different because the context and
Bradford's intention are different, too. Here the author tells the things that happened in
the plantation from the moment they arrived (1620) until the moment he is writing
(1648). Now he is worried about the progression, the decadence and corruption of the
original puritan projects.
So there is a period, while writing Book II, when Puritans in England are getting
hold of the monarchical power.
This book is more realistic because it is concerned with daily problems. William
Bradford starts writing it because Cornwell has come to power in England (dictatorship)
and the round-heads (puritans are opposite to cavaliers) had executed Charles I (1649).
They remain for some time without king until the period of restoration. Bradford wants
to establish that puritans of this new world are the cheerful children of God. Bradford
symbolizes the new world whereas Cornwell symbolizes the old world.
The Bradford of that time is disappointed and frustrated because of the
impossibility of changing things; he is disenchanted because contact with the world (a
corrupt place) avoids achieving their goal.
Some topics of this second book are: sin, sexual behavior, problems with Indians
and among them, corruption of his church.
In the end, he states one of the main topics in American literature, running from
Puritan texts up to the declaration of Independence, the Great Gatsby and George Bush's
speeches: what has happened to the original dream? He shows the destruction of these
illusions. All this providential history has been eroded when put into action. The
identity he tries to forge in the 1st book, in book II he realizes the dissolution of that
identity. Book II talks about the destruction of the dream.
William Bradford constructs that sense of identity (we are unique) right from the
very beginning of his text. For Puritans religious scholars God manifests his power and
selection of his children through suffering. The more troubles an individual or
community went through, the better because it was a sign of God. Like primitive
Christians, they are scorned, mocked, persecuted because they are the true believers and
interpreters of the Word of God.
However, this group of chosen people is suffering much more than the primitive
Christians did. He is at the same time responding to the idea of suffering and also he is
using a literary strategy by which the more he emphasizes the weakness, the
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unprotection, the state of minority of the Puritans, the more he can magnify their
accomplishments as people.

Deep Analysis on Of Plymouth Plantation


Book I – Chapter I
He already makes clear that his group are special people. He says they were
scorned and scoffed by the multitude that did not understand them. They were not
respected by the English church and prosecuted by their religious believers.
They go to a land where there was freedom of religion, Holland: desire to look for
a land where they were free.
Book I – Chapter IV
Their state in Holland is not heaven as they had thought, so after 12 years
Bradford realizes that it was still not the ideal place for the puritans. He gives the
reasons why they left Holland:
1. It is very hard to live in Holland: working and economic problems.
2. People are getting too old to live with all these problems.
3. Also the children are having too heavy burdens and also getting very bad
examples, corrupted (loss of Englishness to the detriment of Dutchness)
4. They wanted to propagate their faith, but that was impossible in Holland.
They wanted to find a good foundation in the New World.
Reasons 1 to 3 are practical whereas the 4th one is purely religious.
Page 15, last paragraph
"[…] being devoid of all civil inhabitants" There is no civil people in America.
There is just wild beasts. This is one of the first times Bradford talks about the attitude
of puritans towards the Indians. He will hold this differentiation between civilization
and barbarity obviously because he is going to justify the killing of Indians. He is
anticipating the idea that, because they are wild beasts, they can be treated as such
without moral condemnation.
Page 16, end of 1st paragraph
There is a description of Indians, concerned with images useful to their purposes
of colonization and destruction. Images passed from Medieval Times are not questioned
at all. He uses Renaissance images about the new world, being cannibalism one of the
most used.
Book I – Chapter VII
This is the first time the Puritans are called pilgrims. They also look up because
heaven was their real country. This people are not defined by a state; they are stateless.
They are not citizens of the world, they are citizens of heaven.
Bradford says they are free, different, not responsible for their actions to the king
of England. Their country (the one they would build) do not have to response to
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anybody but God. It is much different from Spanish conquerors who had to response to
the Spanish Kings.
This chapter provides real material with two letters about spiritual
recommendations, instructions to success, advice on what they should do in this new
world. In Book II, when things come wrong these letters are disobeyed and not taken
into account by the community. Bradford is showing us the contrast between the ideal
(what they wanted to achieve) and the actual (what happened in real life, the
experience).
Note 3
Bradford himself wants to clarify and explain the meaning of the word pilgrim so
he quotes the exact biblical passage from which it is taken, although many people in the
17th century would have known it.
Their objective was not on Earth. The end is God, heaven. Bradford is not only
marking a comparison between puritans and the biblical pilgrims, he is identifying the
puritans as biblical pilgrims.
This use of the Bible is called Typology: a branch of biblical interpretation that
sees Old Testament events and characters as foreshadows of events and characters of
the New Testament. Christian and puritan historians will use this biblical typology in
such a way that present characters of their time identified with characters from the
Bible. Thus, the present history is a fulfillment of biblical history.
Puritans become the pupils of God, the children of Israel and their journey to the
new world becomes the crossing of the Red Sea.
Book I – Chapter IX
The way William Bradford thinks about the puritans as modern biblical characters
is a comparison with many biblical characters considered as pilgrims. This is the case of
the Hebrews, the Israelites, the children of God, the captives of Egypt, who where
guided by Moses into Canaan, the Promised Land.
In this trip, they had to cross, on their way to the land of freedom, the Red Sea
(through water). In the same way that this journey is not an exile, a migratory
movement, the puritans also described their removal from the Old World into the New
World as an exodus. Their journey took religious connotations. This journey is dictated
by God and led by himself.
This chapter is the most important because it describes precisely the crossing of
the Atlantic Ocean. As in the Bible, we know that Israelites are the children of God,
because when they faced terrible dangers and death, God was there to save them. When
the puritans cross their red sea God will also be there to help and save them, showing
that these puritans are also his children.
This chapter is divided in two parts.
Part 1: Of their voyage and how they passed the Sea
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Bradford, out of the numerous things that happened to them, made a very careful
selection of three things. He is doing providential history: how God is present in
everything that happens to these people. These three facts are presented as providences
of God. Everything that happens is designed by God.
a) One of the seamen (non-puritan) is all the time mocking and insulting
the puritans and God punishes him with a painful disease that makes him die
desperately. Morality: to be against puritans means to be against God.
b) A situation of danger and shipwreck. One of the main beams1 is broken
and they are afraid of being unable to finish the voyage. Then,
providentially, they had a great iron screw that came from Holland. In all
this danger of mutterings on the ship the puritans have the solution.
The more Bradford emphasises dangerous conditions, the more important
becomes the agency of God, the way God saves them from all these dangers
and, consequently, their role as children of God.
c) There is a man who, by the grace of God, saves his life. The reason is
because he was going to become a profitable member of the church and the
commonwealth. The difference with the first man is the future life of this
man and the bad behaviour of the first one. Morality: God always protects
his people.
After this, Bradford explains how their arrival was. According to him, all they fell
upon their knees and blessed the heaven of God. They perform an act of humility, as the
old conquerors, showing their thanks to God, their gratefulness and respect. As touching
the land with their bodies, they are taking possession of it. They have finally arrived at
the Promised Land and they become the legitimated owners.
The crossing of the sea, the contact with water, is a classical image to represent a
transformation they have gone through, a new baptism: they are now new people,
reborn to a new life and through new rebirth, they will build a new Jerusalem. But for
blacks that image is different: due to slavery, the crossing of the ocean is a passage from
light/freedom to obscurity/slavery.
A comparison with Seneca: Bradford says that what the Puritans make is unique
comparing it with biblical characters and classic sources. Puritans are always better.
They become heroic characters.
Part 2: Their Arrival
Bradford stops his narrative and makes a direct address to the reader. He is trying
to get the reader involved emotionally, so that the reader may judge the full intensity,
the full consequences of what these people have done: the success, the extension of their
efforts and sacrifices of their project. But, how can the reader appreciate it?

1
Vigas.
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Using biblical expressions: typology. He says that the apostles also met savages
in the Bible, but this new world creatures are much more violent and savage. Out of this
comparison, the puritans are the ones who deserve more respect, more admiration.
Also, kneeling and kissing the ground means sacredness of the land.
Whereas John Smith and Spanish conquerors were surprised by the beauty of
untouched nature (land of plenty), Bradford says there is nothing, only desolate
wilderness. For puritans, the new world has nothing. In this way, Bradford manipulates
reality. He is transforming the Renaissance image of the Arcadia, of a locus amoenus
(perfection), of an Eden into a desert, a locus eremus. He is presenting America as a
blank space, as an empty territory. He is blind to nature. America is presented as a
tabula rasa where the puritans can inscribe their own identity.
"[…] wild beasts and wild men" (p19): The original inhabitants of the land are
described as non-human, so puritans are morally legitimised to take possession of that
land and those people and to destroy and annihilate anything or anybody that gets in
their way.
They are completely alone with God in those lands, far from England and any
civil country.
Pilgrims arrive in America not to discover a new land, but to discover themselves,
i.e. Bradford’s chronicle is not a chronicle of discovery (like Spanish ones) but one of
self-discovery.
Page 62, last paragraph
It is another address to the reader, so the future generation realise the value and
dimension of their achievements. They have been relieved of the land of the oppressors
just like the Israelites were put free of the Egyptians. They are heroic men defended by
God.
Book I – Chapter X
Bradford continues with the typological reading. He talks much more about the
Indians.
Page 63
"so their time limited them being expired"  like the men of Eshcol, the Moses.
Page 65
Description of the first Indian attack.
Page 66
“and the 25th day began to erect the first house for common use to receive them
and their goods”  as a group of people of the same religion, free of the oppression,
they erect the first common house.
Book 2
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William Bradford finishes writing his first book in 1630. In 1644 he writes The
Remainder of Anno 1620, which is really odd because he writes this second book twenty
years later.
“Mutterings” and “serious consultations” (from Book I – Chapter IX) appear
again in the second book, in chapter XI. They decided to write a document and sign it.
This fact shows that this people, from the very beginning, write their own laws and
establish themselves as a different community in the New World.
But why did Bradford forget to mention these events in the first book? Bradford
did not write about the Mayflower Compact in Book I because there he was only
interested in mythical history, in making legend of origins for the puritans, in
establishing and legitimising the puritans role as the first to take possession of America
as children of God.
However, in Book II his tone changes completely. He is interested in daily life, in
giving a description which includes a realistic view of events, problems, differences of
the colony. Now, he will also talk about politics. The problems he is going to talk about
are:
- The starving time (problems of survival)
- Coping with Indians and what they symbolise
- The broken dream and the depravity of puritans and newcomers.
For the tone of frustration, Bradford confesses the witness of his own people, how
the American dream is destroyed for outside and inside forces: the puritans, who little
by little are going away from the initial project.
Book II – Chapter XIX – Anno Domini 1628
New immigrants are putting their challenge at risk, and for Bradford the only
solution is extermination because they represent a threat to their private and public life.
The first person considered as a risk is Thomas Morton of Merrymount. He is an
English cavalier, but he represents a devil for Bradford because he is friendly to
everything Bradford rejects:
- The wilderness
- The Indians, the savages who have to be exterminated
The first thing puritans did when they arrived is to build a frontier between the
civilised world and the savage one (forts). They enclosed their villages with palisades to
get apart from the native world. But this separation between them and Indians is too
weak. Every time they go into Indian territory, they are at risk of becoming
acculturated. They panic they can go native, to loss control of oneself mentally and
sexually. Sin contaminates and spreads into the community.
The Spanish conquerors never did this, they never built up frontiers and got
mixed with natives, but the puritans never encouraged this mixture because Indians did
not have a soul, they were savages. The reason is that English had experience in
colonising other savages: they did the same with the Irish. So the Indian wilderness is a
1

place of obscurity, of sin, of immorality, of sexual license; a place where the mixing
with natives was considered dangerous.
Morton’s conspiracy (page 70)
Morton is trying to seduce this people to become his partners in his plantation.
Bradford tries to dramatise his conspiracy using the historical present and dialogue,
which he invents.
Morton is an Anglican, but he becomes a sort of devil. He and his companions
spend the money trading with Indians and drinking (something forbidden, an act to do
in privacy). Thus, Bradford is scandalised. Morton is friendly to Indians, sex with
savages and drink. He is a danger for puritan colonials who came from the outside.
Morton has realised that the new world is rich in new possibilities for trading.
Bradford ignores that fact on purpose.
Book II – Chapter XXXII – AD 1642 – A Horrible Case of Bestiality
Bestiality means sexual intercourse with animals. Sodomy means sexual
intercourse between two males or two females. It appears a case of bestiality between
his own people. The problem with the New World is that Indians are sexually described
as monsters, as people who enjoy sodomy and (in English and Spanish texts) those
practices (along with cannibalism) mark the difference between civilisation and the
savage world.
As Bradford becomes aware of these practices, he realises God is leaving them, as
in Sodom and Gomorra. The union between a human being and an animal may produce
a monster. The sex function is to give children to God.
Bradford is obsessed with sodomy and bestiality. For him, that is a corruption
impossible to understand; it threatens the community. Bradford says that wilderness
comes from Old England.
Book II – Chapter XXXIV - Page 80, End of the Book II
He has become a sad man. He cannot account any longer for the disillusion and
corruption of his community. He is left alone.

ANNE BRADSTREET
Anne Bradstreet was also a puritan, who arrived with the group of non-separatists
(the second one), less radical although they still believed in the separation of the
Anglican Church.
She was the daughter of an important man in England. Anne married a man she
loved, at a time when people got married for money. Her husband also respected her
literary vocation.
Anne Bradstreet was accustomed to a high level of life in England and when she
arrived at the new world she found only wilderness (1630). She had to survive, to
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accommodate herself to that hostile environment and, incredibly, she found enough time
to write letters and poetry. She is, in history, the first American poet (and woman).
She wrote a poetry that turns around her daily life: problems, questions, etc., in
the life of a puritan woman. She talks about her children, her husband and her love for
him, death, disappointment and difficulties of living in this new world. She also talks
about the role of women and the limitations she had when writing: social limitations for
female’s creativity, the problems women artists encountered. Feminists call these topics
the wild zone because for a long time the type of poetry considered the best was gender
free, a type of poetry that does not betray the sex of its author. They were just about
abstract topics. But now, she talks about feminine topics such as marriage, birth, breast
cancer, menstruation…
When she arrived at the new world, the community said that women couldn’t
devote themselves to intellectual work. They said that women should keep themselves
the house. Women who read (except the Bible) became dangerous for society, for their
families and for themselves; they became insane. Everything a woman did within the
artistic world was rejected, despised. It was thought that reading and writing deprived
women of their tasks, for what they were created.
Anne Bradstreet knew that and tried to fight against that. She did not need to be a
nun, like in Spanish colonies, to work on literature, but she had to face a similar
situation.
Anne Bradstreet was called the tenth muse. Sor Juana Inés was also called in that
way. How could an English woman emigrating to Massachusetts and a woman living in
Mexico be called the same nickname? Sor Juana Inés wrote as well poetry, drama, etc.
She was one of the first to vindicate the power of women’s writing. Sor Juana Inés
chose to live in a convent since she regarded that to be a space of freedom in which to
write (it was forbidden for women in public life).
Both of them, in thus different contexts, came across the same problems: how to
2
assert their right for writing?
Topic of humility: it appears in all the books, is a way of justifying their writing,
being unaware of any knowledge, not skilled, but behind all that, they wanted to write,
they saw writing as their right.
Death was a daily event in the 17th century. She wrote a lot about it because she
had a lot of experience on it.
A respectable woman should not engage into doing things outside the domestic
sphere. Bradstreet writes knowing her limitations in society as a woman. In her poems,
the poetic voice is always aware of the fact that she is a woman. She reflects her
feminine experiences.
In the 17th century, the hygienic conditions among many other facts made birth a
great danger, although having babies was the only aim of the marriage.

2
Hacer valer (derechos). [↔∪ σ ∈  τ ]
1

Anne Bradstreet is completely frightened by the fact of having a baby because


many women around her have died in birth. The power of her texts is her capacity to
translate suffering, fear, frustration and anxiety into writing and into poetry.
Because of her culture and religion, she was trained to transform life into written
words.
The Prologue – Stanzas 5 – 6 – 7 – 8
Anne Bradstreet knows that, when she writes, she is in some way breaking the
law, performing an act condemned by society. This feeling is called anxiety of
authorship. To describe that anxiety becomes important in her poetry.
In stanza 5, she says that people criticises her because what she does is wrong. If
it is good, they say she has stolen it or it was by chance. That anxiety about what she is
doing is also in The Author To Her Book. She becomes ironic. She knows about the
confinements of her writing. Poetry takes into account genre and race. In this stanza she
makes irony about patriarchal authority. She makes fun of this authority, which
denigrates female wisdom.
In stanza 7 and 8, she is asking or giving some sort of recognition for her
knowledge.
That anxiety about what she is doing, condemns, is also in The Author to Her
Book.
In the second edition of this book, she feels obliged to justify the fact that her
poems have seen the public light.

The Author to Her Book


This is a poem she writes for the 2nd edition of her book and it is written to justify
her writing poetry in front of the world.
Anne Bradstreet is a woman and she has a place in the puritan society as a wife
and mother. In the poem she will talk about her poems and her book as her children. So,
she uses the metaphor of motherhood, in the same way that she talks in other poems
about her biological children, love, sacrifice, her concern for the future… Now she talks
about her book as a child who needs protection, as an imperfect product of fruit of
herself. She will also show her worries or her anxiety when she sees that this imperfect
child has been taken away from her and shown to the world. In that way, she is
justifying that she is a poet because other people, not herself, have shown her poetry to
the world. She has been a passive agent, she has had no responsibility in the publication
of the book and, consequently, she cannot be condemned morally by her society.
Bradstreet, in this poem, has to adapt the role of a poor woman who does not
write as a professional, who does not think literature is serious, but a vocation. She
never tried to hide her identity as a woman.
Here Bradstreet starts to use images and analogies that fit her gender. So her book
becomes her own child and this would be the prologue of her book. It is a preface she
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writes with the intention of justifying her immersion into literature, her being a poet.
She gets inspiration from motherhood, fact that concerns only women; she does not
resort to high images or biblical references.
Right from the beginning, the book is a child, an ill-formed one. All the adjectives
she uses to qualify herself are negative to show irony and sarcasm. Her poetry is
contradicting, subverting the authority that rules her community.
She justifies herself by telling how the book made its way to printing and
qualifies it negatively, humiliates her own writing.
She writes this prologue for the 2nd edition of her book. She has revised and
reworked but no matter how much work of revision she does because no work can
improve her book. It is a double act of humiliation; she does not amend the errors.
She says that, in her poetic world, she becomes the sole authority, there are no
fathers. In a way, she is eliminating the father figure and becomes the only giver of life.
At the time she is writing, both men and women could reach the world through
their fathers but not through their mothers. They existed because they were related to a
man’s figure: daughter of… married to… In here, she changes all this and becomes the
only figure of authority. Her children exist because they are related to her as a mother.
Then, poetry exists as a product of women. She is inaugurating another tradition where
the fallen angel is the father.

Before the Birth of One of Her Children


It is a poem addressed to her husband. She writes about her fears when she knows
she may die giving birth. Her poetry is the only thing that will be left after her death.
She wants her children to inherit her poetry because it is the only thing that makes her
eternal.
She admits no care about possessions, nothing defines her as a woman but her
writing, the only thing she wants to hand down to her children.
This poetry is based on the historical circumstances that surrounded a woman’s
life.
If she died, her husband would remarry. Widows and widowers were prone to
remarry and have more children as a way of coping with daily necessities (somebody to
bring up children and sex necessities). Socially, widowers were condemned. It was
necessary to marry another woman to take care of the children of the previous one.
Men, in protestant societies, have to be sexually satisfied because of not, they could
become dangerous. In this way, single women were also condemned. People should go
through the sacrament of marriage to have children.
She acknowledges that a stepmother may come and her children may get a non-
loving stepmother who does not care well for her children. It forms part of her real
experiences in her community.
This poem can be understood as a last will before a probable death. She is aware
1

of that danger and she leaves orders to her husband to behave in case she dies. How he
must behave in front of his children, in front of the possible injuries of the new wife.
Her memory, her love towards her husband and her children will always be reflected,
not in an object, not in the children themselves, but in her poem, in the written word.
Poetry is the only way to transcend death.
We only know she is pregnant because of the title. She is destroying all social
conventions, going beyond the sacredness. For her, birth is not a gift, it is course.
Although she is afraid of the birth, she still loves her husband.

To My Dear and Loving Husband


Bradstreet is a woman in love who writes a poem especially to her husband.
Marriage is a sacred bond3, like the love between wife and a husband. She is honouring
that love. This love is also very private and she is telling the world, showing off4 the
intensity of that love in such a way that it even appears sinful. That love will not end
with death, but will continue in after life.
She had a wonderful relationship with her husband and they loved each other,
which was not normal because of arranged marriages.
Some images from Book of Salomon5 have inspired this poem (biblical and exotic
images). It is a crescendo of intensity. For Puritans, writing poetry was the only way to
escape, it was the most excellent literary genre, generally designed to highlight the
presence of God in life.
Here Anne Bradstreet is not writing about divine love but human love. It might be
interpreted as going beyond that love. At the end, all the love she is expressing for her
husband is sacred because for Puritans marriage was a sacred bond, a divine union.
We may interpret the poem as:
- She limits herself to the rules of Puritanism
- She may go beyond.
It is not romantic love of a woman for a man although it might seem so. It is the
love of a wife for a husband and so a sacred love that justifies their union and as a
sacred love makes them eternal. It eternalises both herself and her husband.
She makes some biblical references by rephrasing the words said in the sacrament
of matrimony.
The two last lines reflect the possibility of earthly love making them eternal:
living beyond death. She includes this wild zone: romantic, feminist approach. She
includes all these experiences in her poetry, raising them to the rank of poetic things.

In Reference to Her Children


3
Lazo, unión.
4
Show off, boast: Presumir, alardear.
5
El cantar de los cantares.
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Everywhere we read, we can identify the writer is a woman and she is writing as
a mother. Most of her poems are related to the women sphere; she will talk about her
maternal love because she has eight children.
This is a poem of a very proud mother who describes how she brought up her
eight children and the different life they started outside the maternal world. She tells
about her little children, when they are born and later gone away.
We can observe that there is no father here, but in a Puritan society only men
were important. Men were the only individuals considered by the law. They were the
only ones to have status so the law says you exist because you have a father.
Anne Bradstreet is terrified with the social tragic vision and ignoring what the
society think, she says that her children are hers, they belong to the mother. In the poem
she completely ignores her husband.
In the 1st stanza, she talks as a mother who takes care of all the children until they
leave the nest, until they can fly.
The word hatched6 refers to the state of warm eggs or coming out of the eggs.
The meaning here could be the second one. She talks about the birth of her children.
Four cocks: four boys. Hens the rest: the rest are girls.
In the 2nd stanza, she talks about her first older son who left her and went alone to
a different place. He, as a man, could go alone, but that was not the case of a girl.
Then, the daughter leaves, but she does it with her mate, not alone. Girls could
not leave alone. The only way to leave home was marrying a man.
Leave not thy nest… this choir: She is in sorrow as a mother. Her children have to
go.
The 3rd one to leave was a girl.
The 4th one was a boy who could go away alone because he wanted to succeed in
life.
She talks about how much she would like to be remembered by her children. She
wants her children to have a memory of their mother. She wants to transcend them to
her poem; by writing she can live eternally for them.

Here Follows Some Verses upon the Burning of Our House


After the burning of her house, instead of committing suicide or insulting God,
she writes poetry in such a terrible situation.
For Puritans, suffering was positive because it was a way God has to test them
and through the experience of suffering puritans could get to understand and feel the
presence of God in their lives. So, after suffering, puritans became purified. Anne
Bradstreet tries to see the presence of God in this experience. She tries to find an answer
connected with the spiritual world and then she writes about it.
6
To hatch: Incubar, eclosionar. [η Θ τ Σ ]
2

In the poem, she was sleeping and, in the middle of the night, she heard Fire! She
cried to God not to leave her without help. When the sight was so terrifying, she blessed
God since it was God’s will. He has dictated it and we cannot question it. Bradstreet is
resigned to the will of God.
She talks about the objects that she loved so much, that in some way represented
her life (trunk, chest). She is realising all these things are lost. She is addressing to the
house (under thy roof…). She has made a list of all the things she will never have again.
She is crossing the border from resignation to complain.
Later, she goes back to the idea that between earth possessions and spiritual
possessions, the later ones are the most important.
At the end of the poem, she gives a twist to all these lines and uses that dramatic
experience, that suffering, as a sign from God to make her understand the richness of
her spiritual life, at the house of heaven.

MARY ROWLANDSON – A NARRATIVE OF THE CAPTIVITY AND RESTORATION OF MRS. MARY


ROWLANDSON
This is an important text within the Puritan literature. It inaugurates the English
captivity narrative, which is a literary gender in which the protagonist is kidnapped
and, after a time, is finally released and goes back to his/her original community.
Mrs. Mary Rowlandson was kidnapped by Indians and released after 12 weeks.
Instead of becoming mad, she decided to write about it. Her narrative is
autobiographical.
The problem with the captivity narrators is that when they come back to their own
community, the community needs to know if they have gone Indians or not. They
thought that if you were in contact with Indians, it was probable that you end up being
one of them.
Literatura de Estados Unidos desde los orígenes hasta el siglo XIX· 2

Mary Rowlandson is kidnapped by Indians in 1675 and at that time war breaks up
between Indians and colonisers. The Indian chief was called King Phillip by the
colonisers.
One year later, she wrote her story, but it was not until 1682 when it was
published. She publishes it because the community, especially her husband, encourage
her to do so. The religious ministers in her community believe that her experience might
be useful for the community. So her text was considered a moral lesson at a time of
many troubles: hunger, Indians hostility, corruption of original ideals…
Her narrative is a way to remind the community that God is still with them
whatever would happen.
Rowlandson’s text is a Ieremiad: Ieremias went into the desert and complained to
God and looked for Him. So even in a terrible condition, he found God, as Mary
Rowlandson did find Him.
In her journey into the wilderness, the community will see a way to look for God.
Her writing is justified –though she was a woman- because it was an example of a
moral lesson to the community.
In the original narrative, before the main text, there was a Preface to the reader
and, after it, her husband’s sermon.

Preface to Husband’s
the reader
+ TEXT +
sermon

The preface to the reader is written by a man –a Minister- and he is telling us how
to read the text. It interprets the text only from the point of view of God dealing with
Mary. Mary’s voice is not alone. First, the reader has to read the preface and after that
Mary’s husband’s sermon. Both surrounding texts were written by men.
The richness of this text when compared to others is how the preface and sermon
(framing the narrative) are there to limit, contain the possibilities of other readings.
From the physical point of view, Mary is kidnapped and she is taken into the
forest where she lives with the Indians for twelve weeks: from the town into the
wilderness; from the white men’s world into the red men’s world. From a practical point
of view, she went through starvation, cold, fear and the possibility of being rapped.
Being a woman and coming back into the community was very controversial
since everybody knew they were polluted.
Spiritually, Mary’s journey into the forest takes the Biblical image of Judea
capta (when the Hebrews were captured in Babylon). She is like a Hebrew suffering
captivity not in the wilderness, but in Babylon and she will be released not because her
husband but because God shows His grace to her.
2

Due to this, this journey into the wilderness becomes a journey into her soul, what
is called an inward journey, but we can also read it as a journey into knowledge.
The text is not divided into chapters, days or weeks, but into removals. Thus,
what we have here is not a chronological separation but a spatial separation. She is
talking about her experience as she gets closer to the wilderness and further from
civilisation. She changes dramatically, becoming another woman.
All the security she had in her beliefs, in the rightness of civilisation, breaks down
the closest she gets into wilderness.
Differently from another captivity narratives, Mary Rowlandson changes
throughout her time with the Indians. She is an orthodox puritan right at the beginning
and, as days go by, she gets in contact with the Indians and more and more her puritan
beliefs about Indians seem to change. In the very beginning, she voices the puritans, but
in the middle of the narrative and after she has been obliged to survive in the
wilderness, she starts questioning her puritan beliefs until she comes to a moment in
which she is the savage; she becomes an Indian and the Indians become civilised
people.
Her attitude is very ambiguous towards Indians. There is a confrontation between
the idea or theory and the actual or real experience. She is a woman with orthodox ideas
who is dropped into the wilderness.
Mary Rowlandson writes the story encouraged by her community many years
after her release. This story is important because her experience may become a model
for her society. She writes to show how God had shown His grace. She writes from
typology (like Anne Bradstreet).
It is also important the fact that it is written by her own hand because many
stories about captive women were written by men, especially ministers. This is the
story of a woman told by a woman.
For the benefit of the afflicted: This captivity narrative is written as a moral
lesson, to show others the way to God and how He was still with them in those terrible
moments. From these moral narratives will come, in the future, the self-help books.
Biblical citations: The Bible helps her in every moment, mainly when she is
down. Although we do not know for sure if an Indian gave her the Bible or not, it is not
important. She uses it because it is useful to show she is a puritan, a child of God, and
that she might be an elected. Any time she opens the Bible, she comes across the right
quotation that described her experience and compares her to a biblical character
(typology again).
Sometimes she can find justification for her acts and sometimes she cannot, so
her desire to live is much stronger than her puritan doctrines. This makes her
experience into a book full of curiosity for that savage life. She is eager7 to know about
Indian life. Instead of showing herself as a strict puritan, rejecting this wilderness, she

ρ
7
To be eager to: Desear, querer, tener ganas de. [∪ ι  γ ↔ ]
Literatura de Estados Unidos desde los orígenes hasta el siglo XIX· 2

becomes part of it. She learns Indian ways, Indian cooking. She re-educates herself. She
shows anthropological interest in these people.
She repeats what her community told her about Indians: savage, wild animals, etc.
Sometimes she is completely obsessed about food. She is very hungry almost all the
time. Food becomes one of the most important things that distinguish the world of
civilisation and the world of savagery. Hunger is a very important topic in literature.
Point-by-point analysis on Removals
3rd Remove – 44/145
Starvation.
Death of the child she was wearing.
The Bible appears (45/147). It is the only virtual link with the civilised world.
Mary Rowlandson encourages another woman to stay and not to escape.
5th Remove – 47/150
God shows his anger through the Indians so they are not punished for not
believing in Him. That’s why she does not offer an explanation on what she suffers. All
is a punishment to her community for distancing from God.
Mary Rowlandson is knitting: Adaptation in order to survive in the Indian
community. Exchange products to survive.
7th Remove – 47/151
She had to survive, so she ate Indian food. Mary Rowlandson is undergoing a
process of unprocessed food: savagery. She eats a horse-liver little cooked with her own
hands and she recognises it was tasty.
8th Remove – 48/152
King Phillip is the Indian king. Mary Rowlandson breaks down in front of
Indians. They react as friends and human beings to comfort her. They now are more
civilised.
Smoking was related to indianness, so she rejects.
Survival economy: the shirt. She is socialising with them: dinner. When she
invites her mistress and master, she equals to Indians. Here starts the process of going
native.
9th Remove – 49/154
She eats their food and also tries to socialise with them. Also, the Indians become
more friendly to her, so the line between savagery and civilisation is becoming thinner.
19th Remove – 53/162
Climax of her conversion into savagery. Physical and spiritual immersion.
Exchange between Mary and her master. Mary is the savage now, the uncivilised,
because she stinks and her Indian master tells her. The frontier between savagery and
civilisation is non-existent, it depends on who is speaking.
Through the Renaissance, the glass became an erotic element to show beauty.
What she sees reflected makes her understand that this strict division between
2

civilisation and savagery is no longer valid. Indians are humanised and puritans become
indianised.
Mary Rowlandson talks a lot about King Phillip, but as a puritan, this relationship
must be hidden. The ambiguity of this relationship must be suppressed at the end of the
text. She has to finish her text in an orthodox way.

THE 18TH CENTURY – THE ENLIGHTENMENT – THE AGE OF REASON, NEOCLASSICISM

The main political event in English colonies during this century was the War of
Independence or The American Revolution. The main change is the start of modernity:
reason and logic took the power. The world becomes more rational, scientific and
mathematic. God becomes for this illustrate people a sort of architect who has designed
a world which can be explained through logic and reason.
The Enlightenment began in Europe –not in Spain, which was under the
Inquisition- and it went into America with all these European influences.
Man becomes a thinking individual. He exists as far as he is able to think
rationally. If the world can be explained by mathematics, the world can be improved;
the man, the society can be also improved.
At this period, the power is concentrated in an elite of intellectuals –the thinking
men- and their duty is to improve their way of life. There is a belief in progress: man
can progress and invent things to achieve this progress, and a progress in society. This is
a century full of new inventions to improve the life of common people. Benjamin
Franklin is an example of these men.
The rising middle class (bourgeoisie), in Protestant counties and as a result of
Protestantism, become more and more rich and powerful, and since aristocracy has
drama and poetry to see them reflected in the literature, the middle class also wanted to
see a kind of literary genre to reflect their interests: the novel. This middle class novel
will reach its most important point in the 19th century.
Political thinkers and philosophers discuss about governments and come to the
conclusion that the divinity of the king can no longer be acceptable (as it happened in
the Renaissance and the Middle Age). When a king behaves unfairly with the people,
these people have a right to rebel. Moreover, they have a right to overthrow 8 the king or
queen. This political thought will justify the American Revolution and the French
Revolution.

8
To overthrow: Derrocar. [∩↔ Υ ϖ ↔ ∪ Τ ρ ↔ Υ ]
Literatura de Estados Unidos desde los orígenes hasta el siglo XIX· 2

Whereas in France, they wanted a trustworthier king and better conditions for
poor people, in America they wanted the independence from the English crown and
form their own government.
In 1775, the war starts in America and it will finish in 1783 with the Treaty of
Versailles. From this on, we can speak properly of the United States of America, which
were born from the 13 original English colonies.
For the first time ever in the world, it appears a democratic constitution, a
republic related with the paper written by the company of the Mayflower when they
arrived to the new world.
With the new changes, the enlightenment political thought, the new ideas of
progress, faith in the possibilities of improvement that the society had and in the power
of the individual, US became, at the end of that century, a land of opportunities, a land
were the revolutionary ideals of equality, freedom and happiness might come true.
One of the texts that best shows that new attitude of optimism of America as a
land of opportunities is Crèvecoeur’s Letters from an American Farmer.
ST. JEAN DE CRÈVECOEUR – LETTERS FROM AN AMERICAN FARMER
This text is an essay that works as political propaganda. At a time when the
country is just born, politicians and intellectuals are very happy with the political
independence, but they also desire a cultural independence from Great Britain. So they
start to call for an American Literature which is authentically American; a Literature
that can be distinguished from European models.
St. Jean de Crèvecoeur writes his book using an epistolary form, but why?
During this period, political thoughts, philosophical thinking was transmitted using the
epistolary form. It is a time when new cultures have been rediscovered by philosophers
and the way to transmit this new information from other countries takes the form of
letters.
St. Jean de Crèvecoeur is just using the literary forms of the moment. He wants to
express he is giving new information to European readers about the new country, US,
which has just become independent. He tries to make propaganda, gives information
and, in doing so, he is giving a description of the new country and trying to answer one
of the questions that becomes most important after independence: identity, what is an
American?
During the 18th century, Europe goes through an agricultural revolution: new
inventions, progress of techniques of cultivation, new crops9, new products are being
experimented… It seems that with these technological improvements applied to the land
the standard of life of the European population could be greatly improved, facing the
starvation. In consequence, the cultivation of the land became something fashionable, so
much that the monarchies (English and French) supported the ideas.

9
Crop: Cultivo, cosecha. [κ ρ π ]
2

This is also defended by an economic school in France: the Physiocrats. They


defended that farming was the most important source of richness. The cultivation of
land can change the faith of men.
St. Jean de Crèvecoeur supports these ideas and takes them with him to America.
This is the reason why he establishes, as a prototype of this new society, the farmer –
who in the 19th century would become idealised because of his contact with nature.
On the other hand, at the time he is writing, there is in Europe a very important
debate about America. For some people (political thinkers and philosophers), nature had
degenerated in America: it had gone wild. The only possibility to stop that degeneration
was to apply cultivation methods to tame 10 the land through farming, through
civilisation.
This is an argument that will be used to justify latter colonisation, exploration and
exploitation of the continent and the extermination of the native inhabitants: farming
against degeneration.

PURITANS 18 CENTURY
TH

New Jerusalem Wild nature


Religious people Civilised, cultured people
Savages (non-religious) Savages (non-civilised)
Religion Farming

This text is used to write America, not about it. America becomes a text: the
American Dream.
96/558
The most beautiful things in America are the settlements. Bradford’s wilderness
has become civilisation.
96/559
Civilisation and culture have entered America. This country is good because it
has the potential to be transformed, civilised. US is an exceptional, unique experiment:
exceptionalism. This country and its political evolution cannot be compared with the
evolution of politics in European countries.
Social hierarchies are really demarcated in Europe, but in USA there are no social
classes, no aristocracy and, therefore, no social oppression, no political enslavement.
Besides, there is no religious hierarchy, no ecclesiastical power or influence on politics.
Also, all men were considered equal before law and had all the same rights. It is
considered a land of freedom.

10
To tame: Domar. [τ ε Ι µ ]
Literatura de Estados Unidos desde los orígenes hasta el siglo XIX· 2

We are tillers11 of the earth


The American embodies the ideal prototype of man in this period. Whereas in
Europe people continue oppressed, there the people were free because the power was
mild; laws were respected without taking into account the power of people.
St. Jean de Crèvecoeur is defending the American dream, this new utopia with a
condition: people must work very hard. He is also defending individualism. You can
succeed because the profit of individual work will fall on the individual.
No castles, no mansions because they are the symbols of oppression, of a political
power which does not exist in the USA. Everybody lives in the same way, enjoys the
same benefits. This would not be so in practice, but the important thing is the way of
making propaganda.
Only the 3rd part of the continent is inhabited. He is calling for new inhabitants,
for people to explore and settle in the USA.
97/560
USA becomes for him a huge melting pot because people coming from different
cultures mixed and melt in this country (theoretically). However, Jewish, Italian and
Spanish immigrants lived separately.
There were theories that understood that men’s life was very much influenced by
the environment, the conditions among which these men lived. If you improved the
conditions, the result was the improvement of men. This opinion justified social
revolutions and rebellions against governments.
This possibility for a better life, represented by the American, was the hope for
poor and oppressed people in Europe. Men could change their own condition and go up.
97/561
WASP: White Anglo-Saxon Protestant: the American elite. Many people were
excluded with this definition, such as Catholics, blacks, original dwellers of the country
(Indians)…
St. Jean de Crèvecoeur wrote this text as an enlightened: men’s life could be
improved –> progress. He wanted to attract immigrants.
BENJAMIN FRANKLIN – THE AUTOBIOGRAPHY
Whereas St. Jean de Crèvecoeur was French, Benjamin Franklin was an
American. He was one of the first Americans to become famous in Europe. He was a
man who represented the American Enlightenment and as such he believed in the
progress of men and society.
He was a politician, one of the men who wrote the Declaration of Independence,
since he was a patriot. He also was a printer: he printed books, journals, etc. He was
also writer and inventor.
How was America born? St. Jean de Crèvecoeur tried to define, to explain the
characteristics that made America different, the exception. Benjamin Franklin would

ρ
11
Tiller: Cultivador. [∪ τ Ι λ ↔ ]
2

also try to explain what makes a man an American and what made him different. As
American, he does so through writing.
In a period when the country is changing and has just become independent,
Benjamin Franklin comes out with this model for men and women. He becomes the
typical American: the poor boy who becomes a president through work.
Benjamin Franklin wrote his autobiography to explain how his life fits the model
of the American men defined by St. Jean de Crèvecoeur. His book explains the life of a
man from his poor origins to success and popularity thanks to hard work in a country
where this is possible: America.
Contrary to Europeans, where there is a history that imprisons, manipulates and
frustrates desire and hopes, the American men (like Franklin) has nothing but himself.
He makes history.
The Autobiography is a success story and it becomes the model for later
autobiographical narratives. The typical autobiographical narrative would always tell
the story of an individual that rises from poverty to richness, from obscurity to light, and
all this tanks to his/her work.
The process described would become an example to be followed by others, a
lesson to be learned because the achievement of success (especially material wealth) is
presented as a proof of God’s presence in the life of that individual.
Benjamin Franklin divided his text into three parts:
- The 1st one talks about his ideals of material success: how to become rich. In
protestant culture material wealth is a sign of religious salvation. Franklin offers
his life as an example worthy of imitation to others.
- The 2nd one talks about moral regeneration. Here he is a mature person and is
completely devoted to a project of moral perfection. He gives us a series of
virtues empty of any religious involvement, secularised. His frugality and
industry makes him successful.
- The 3rd one talks about social progress and how he has become a civic leader, a
person who has devoted his life to the welfare of his community. Franklin is a
child of Puritanism and as such he believes that every little detail, every event
that happens to him must be accounted for, must be explained, because that
might be a sign of God.

This is a book dedicated to one of his children.


Page 69/408: “Dear son” –> He addresses the book to him in order to show them
his life.
Page 69/409: The idea behind his texts. He is a self-made man and he will talk
about his project using ideas seen in St. Jean de Crèvecoeur (like hard work) to change
his life as a common man replacing the life of saints in the 18th century.
Literatura de Estados Unidos desde los orígenes hasta el siglo XIX· 2

Benjamin Franklin secularises the autobiographical genre, the spiritual


autobiography. This is the life that American men must follow: a common man who has
managed to overcome social conditions and become the representative of his country
and culture.
He talks about his life as writing a book. It is related to the power of writing in
protestant culture. When you write about your life, you can create a new self and
Franklin will use several identities to describe his life, all with a didactic purpose.
Talking about himself is not vanity as it is justified by his moral purpose.
He is talking about God although throughout his narrative more than emphasizing
the role of God, he will emphasize his own actions.
Page 70/421: He is talking about his life as a boy and all the places he visits to get
a job. Among the experiences he has, he is now at sea. Here, the responsibility of saving
men corresponds not to God, like in the religious puritan chronicle by William
Bradford, but to Franklin. In a way, he is saying he does not need God. He is assuming
a providential role.
Page 71/422: When Pilgrim’s Progress was published, it became the second most
important book, after the Bible, for the protestant culture. It is a rewriting of the Bible.
It is an allegory in two parts. All the characters are symbols of how a man and a woman
(Christian and Christiana) can achieve salvation and the process is represented by the
journey they make from the city of Destruction (earthy life) to the Celestial city (the
vision of God). The book explains all the dangers, all the tests, all the examinations that
the individual had to pass to achieve moral perfection.
Life for puritans is a journey, like in Rowlandson’s texts. Franklin is also a
pilgrim, but he is not going to a Celestial city, to religious salvation. He is going to the
city of material success.
Little Women (“Mujercitas”) is a feminist rewriting of Pilgrim’s Progress.
Page 73-74: Second part of the book: moral regeneration. The reinterpretation
of the Christian catechism. He imagines new virtues that are not in this catechism
because he adds more specific areas.
For Franklin, the virtues have now no religious meaning. The virtues talk about
self interest and he can, as a common man living in this new country create his own
method, his own catechism. He does not need to confess to nobody. He has to check by
himself if his progress is right or not.
He shows and absolute freedom, as an individual, from institutional religions: I
have written my own virtues –> his own guide.

In the 3rd part he will talk about his public persona, about all the things he has
invented, all the projects he has carried out to improve the life of other men. He comes
as a perfect man. Throughout his life, he has been concerned not only about himself, but
about the others, about society.
3

All present ideas about charity works when you have become rich come from this
time. An individual has to be represented in the private and public sphere.
Benjamin Franklin is conforming the myth of the successful self-made man.
Vanity for Benjamin Franklin is positive. It tells us how American people behave
and talk. American system is based on interviews, ways of talking about themselves.
Vanity: you have to show off and expose your achievements and make them look good,
to sound good because they are the measure by which you will be considered.

SLAVERY AND BLACK PEOPLE IN THE USA


In 1679, the first 16 slaves are taken to Jamestown.
Bartolomé de las Casas wrote a book defending Indians. He said they had a soul
so they could be christianised and as Christians, they should not be slaves.
In the US there had been an official history which talked about democracy,
freedom and success, but only for white people.
Blacks in the US were, from the very beginning, given the opportunity to write,
all the opposite to what happened in Spanish colonies.
In the 18th century, Afro-American writers in the US tried to give voice to their
people and to themselves. Their literature is a literature of denunciation, of protest, of
self-assertion and a literature that tries to respond and destroy the negative images of
blacks in white literature and American culture.
The middle passage: It was the trip that took Africans to the new world, the
crossing of the Atlantic. This term in Afro-American culture means the dramatic
experience of blacks snatched away from their civilisations, kidnapped and transported
to America.
The slave traders always tried to mix Africans from different tribes and with
different languages so that they could not communicate with each other and plot
rebellion on the ship. The middle passage is a moment of acculturation.
Cotton gin: It was a revolutionary machine that helped to separate the seed of
cotton from the wool. Up to that moment, it was a manual process. Thus, the process
became much quicker and the southern states realised that they could boast, increase
their production of cotton, but they needed more slaves. So slavery became essential to
maintain the southern economy at the end of the 19th century.
While in the south slavery was an important business, in the north there was a
very important population of free blacks already working and protesting against
northern racism and southern slavery at the end of the 18th century, mainly in Boston
and Philadelphia.
The vast majority of slaves were concentrated in the south. Blacks were born to
work in the cotton crops (also tobacco) because they were cheap workers for the
landowner. In the northern states (Massachusetts, Delaware) as slavery became illegal at
the end of the 18th century, there existed a very important population of free blacks who
Literatura de Estados Unidos desde los orígenes hasta el siglo XIX· 3

lived in cities, some worked as barbers, merchants, carpenters and some became very
rich.
The element that links free northern Negroes and southern slaves is racism, racial
discrimination. Blacks, even if they were very rich, had to live in a state of segregation:
different schools, theatres, libraries, etc). This state remained in this way until the
1960’s.
This is one of the reasons why free Negroes in the north joined the abolitionist
movement, antislavery institutions, platforms… because of racial solidarity.
At the end of the 18th century, philosophers believed that the world is structured in
a hierarchy called The Great Chain of Being.
Blacks were understood not to be human beings so their characteristics and
behaviour were like those of animals.

God

Angels

Men

Animals, Blacks, Indians

Vegetables and minerals

Society, in theory, had to produce a justification that accounted and explained


why black people were things and not people. They made up three reasons to justify it.
1) Religious Justification
They try to justify slavery from a theological point of view. To do this, they
reinterpreted the Bible. They said this text said that God created blacks to be the
servants of whites. By divinity, blacks are the natural servants of whites. It is the
objective of their existence.
2) Biological Justification
Doctors and scientists studied the body of blacks and declared that the black body
was dramatically different from the white body because it is stronger, it resists extreme
weather and hard work much better and the head capacity is smaller than the white’s
one, so their intellectual capacities are inferior.
This body traits defended through scientific language are unquestionable because
science said so. It resulted in the idea that blacks were the natural slaves of whites.
3

3) Cultural Justification
Whites said Africa and its children belonged to obscurity. This is a continent of
savagery, of barbarism and this is shown in the fact that Africans do not possess a
written culture. Being taken into the new world is in fact a privilege, a favour that has
resulted in the improvement of these barbarians, their cultural growth and their
christianisation. Blacks should be thankful because slavery has helped them to embrace
civilisation.
Americans try to rationalise how a nation was born from the ideal of freedom is
engaged in slavery.

Afro-American literature starts in the 18th century. In a cultural context were


writing is one of the most natural things (all the opposite that happens in Spanish
cultures, where writing is restricted to an elite) it makes easier for blacks to develop a
written culture in America.
In the US, the visible sign that separated barbarians from civilised people was
writing, literacy. That cultural characteristic originated one of the most important
American literary genres: the slave narratives.

Slave Narratives
At the end of the 18th century, in both Great Britain and America, it springs a
movement supported by whites against slavery. This movement had deeply religious
origins, so the Quakers were the first religious denomination to write defending
abolitionism: Christianity emphasises love among all creatures and slavery is therefore
condemned. This movement, right at the beginning tries to offer examples to convince
other whites of the horror of slavery. They encourage ex-slaves escaped from slavery or
bought themselves to write about their lives in slavery.
Blacks write because whites support them, provide them with the economic
means of publication and the audience. Blacks write for white readers. The texts that
they write in autobiographical form are called slave narratives, a narrative written by a
black ex-slave (woman or man) talking about their life in slavery and their escape into
freedom. It is similar to captivity narratives.
The black narrator becomes acceptable to white society through the writing of
his/her life. Blacks write themselves into being, because they write, they exist.
In this slave narratives, they will tell their journey from slavery into freedom, but
also their journey from illiteracy to literacy, how they learnt to read and write.
There are three types of slave narratives:
a) Slave narratives written by the black ex-slave.
b) Slave narratives dictated by the black ex-slave to a white abolitionist.
c) A fictitious slave narrative written by a white abolitionist for propaganda.
Literatura de Estados Unidos desde los orígenes hasta el siglo XIX· 3

This is an autobiographical genre and not with an aesthetic purpose (for beauty),
but with a political one. They want to change society’s opinion about blacks. It tries to
engage the reader into political action.

PHILLIS WHEATLEY
She is considered to be the mother of Afro-American literature, the first black
writer who has a book published. She writes at the end of the 18 th century and she is a
black African woman.
She and Equiano are both born in Africa and are both kidnapped and taken into
the new world. Both of them have sense of freedom and have been grown up in African
costumes. Wheatley and Equiano know what the middle passage is.
Although she belongs to the animal group (blacks), when she arrives in Boston –
about the age of 7- she is bought to a middle-class family who realises she is very
clever. So they teach her English, Latin and she starts writing poetry.

Anne Bradstreet Phillis Wheatley


Woman Woman
Mother of poetry Mother of Afro-American literature (poetry)
Barriers: woman Barriers: black slave
1st publication in London 1st publication in London

She had a family of strict Christians who followed the literary fashions of the 18th
century in America, so we can expect that her poetry will accommodate perfectly to the
taste of the moment: Christianity and Neoclassicism.
Whitefield was an English Methodist who went to the American colonies and
wherever he went there were crowds of people listening to his preaching, his sermons
and people who embraced Methodism. Phillis Wheatley wrote about the most famous
preacher in England and in the colonies after his death.
3

The only possibility to have her book published was by getting economic support
by influential people: the Countess of Huntington and Lord Mayor of London. Phillis
Wheatley is taken into England as the most famous writer. She was treated as a strange
creature, as a freak. In a century when people believe in the progress of man (Benjamin
Franklin) and the importance of environment (St. Jean de Crèvecoeur), Phillis Wheatley
is shown around as the living example of the validity of enlightenment beliefs: the
power of the environment and the power of the progress of man).
Only after the death of her masters, would she become free and marry a freeman:
John Peters (1778). Before that date, as a slave, she was not allowed to marry him
because mister and miss Wheatley disliked him. But the only thing she does freely is
seen as a mistake. She chooses the wrong man, a man who is working against slavery
barriers. Phillis Wheatley disobeys the masters and, in consequence, she is punished by
God: poverty, loneliness and death.
“Both mother and child were buried together in an unmarked grave”: You are
lost for history and your memory will vanish; your life has been worthless.
Blacks died forgotten; there is no trace of their memory so it is the duty of later
generations to retrieve that memory.
Phillis Wheatley dedicated her book to the Countess of Huntington because she
had helped her as a white abolitionist.
In the preface we can read “were written originally for the Amusement of the
Author”. It links Phillis Wheatley with Anne Bradstreet. There was also a letter from
the author’s master to the publisher.
Eighteen men in Boston, among reverends and intellectuals, examined her
thoroughly on English, Latin, poetry, etc. They wanted to test her knowledge to know if
what she was writing was hers. The document written by whites tries to fight against the
distrust of the reader.
On Being Brought From Africa to America
Phillis Wheatley’s most famous poem is On Being Brought From Africa to
America. At the time she is writing, people would never say I come from Africa because
Africa was a metaphor of blackness. Africa would stand as a country of darkness,
savages, obscurity. Africa was called Ethiopia at that time. An Ethiopian was meant a
black African.
Whereas for the African slave this continent is a place of origin and childhood,
for western people –Europeans and white Americans- Africa is a continent of barbarity,
cannibalism, atheism. So, travellers in the 18th century described the continent and its
people as a land of barbarism and savagery. The image of Africa is reinterpreted and
constructed in the texts or books written by those travellers in the 18 th century. This is a
century of believing in human capacity to improve. Travellers did not talk about
Africans objectively, but always comparing their civilisation to Europeans ideas and the
result was always negative. Their conclusions spoke always about the superiority of
Literatura de Estados Unidos desde los orígenes hasta el siglo XIX· 3

white race, not only from the cultural point of view, but even from the biological point
of view (the body).
When Phillis Wheatley says On Being Brought From Africa to America, we have
to understand the image that people had about Africa and America.
The title of the poem is a passive: brought. This word eliminates all the violence,
aggressiveness; she was not brought but enslaved in Africa. It erases the negative
connotations. She uses it because she is writing for white readers and she must be very
careful with the language she uses since whites have paid the publication of her book.
The way to escape this is by using the passive voice. She is addressing it to a white
Christian American.
The poem is divided into three parts.
1st) She is using autobiographical information. She shows her gratitude for the
divine mercy that brought her to a Christian land and taught her to look for spiritual
redemption.
She is repeating the characteristics with which western culture qualified Africa at
the time: pagan land (v1).
She sounds apparently thankful for this, repeating the standard conventions that
justified slavery: it was good because it gave to Black people the possibility of knowing
Christianity.
2nd) She changes the tone and turns gratefulness into reproach. She is taking the
contemporary opinion that equated the colour of the skin with the morality of the
individual.
At the time, there was also a theological justification of slavery: the Bible says
that black people are evil; they are the natural servants of whites.
Inverted commas means quoting the exact words whites said.
3rd) She makes a direct address to the readers and warns them about the
contradiction they are committing, about how wrong they are in their interpretation of
Christianity and she claims for racial equality between blacks and whites.
“Remember” is an imperative, an order. Using it means you are in a position of
power, it was addressed to white people. Blacks can scale that social ladder, they could
escape that classification from the social pyramid.
“Cain” sounds like cane. Blacks were working, refining the sugar cane. Once the
sugar cane is refined, it turns white ≈ once a black is refined he/she is equal to a white.
There are metaphors and images of blackness throughout the entire poem.

To the University of Cambridge, in New England


• 1st Stanza
At that time, only rich men were able to study at University. The power of writing
makes her able to say things she would have never been able to say.
Errors: paganism, barbarity.
3

She is being very orthodox, not protesting, accepting her guilt for being black.
Conventional start.
Biographical info.
White’s vision.
Africa as a place of atheism.
• 2nd Stanza
The history of Jesus Christ, his death as redemption of sin, his immense
compassion. Typical image of Jesus in the cross.
Spiritual knowledge.
• 3rd Stanza
“Improve”: another order to the reader.
“Blooming plants”: you, the future.
One who has a diabolic dye12 is talking about theology, and also legitimising itself
by talking to Harvard students.

12
Dye: Tinte. [δ α Ι ]
Literatura de Estados Unidos desde los orígenes hasta el siglo XIX· 3

OLAUDAH EQUIANO – THE INTERESTING NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE OF OLAUDAH EQUIANO,


OR GUSTAVUS VASSA, THE AFRICAN, WRITTEN BY HIMSELF

He was a very famous slave who became free. He himself wrote the text and he
himself made propaganda about abolitionism because he became an abolitionist in Great
Britain. He is an African, like Phillis Wheatley, and was also brought when being a
child. He gives a description of his native land which does not appear in slave narratives
written by Americans. The vision of Africa was of misery, primitive conditions,
ignorance, the dangers of the unknown. He tells about his trip from freedom to freedom.

Freedo Slaver Freedo


m y m

Africa America

His narrative is about his journey from illiteracy to literacy, from ignorance to
knowledge of the culture, from African religion to Christianity (conversion).
In all his narrative, he speaks with the voice of the other, the black voice. As a
black narrator, one of the main problems he has to face is the distrust of the reader.
That is, he has to convince the white readers of the authenticity of his narrative. There is
an official history that the author will try to question because it is untruthful to black
experience.
At the same time, in American history there are people who are writing about
America as the fulfilment, the reality of the Biblical Jerusalem, the American dream,
etc. And others (blacks) are questioning those national ideals, the bases of the
republican doctrines.
Gustavus Vassa’s original name was Olaudah Equiano, but he calls himself the
name imposed by one of his white masters: Gustavus Vassa. He shows a double
identity, African and American because he does not want to reject neither of them.
“Written by himself” means that he wants to legitimate the fact that he is the
author of his own text.
Chapter I
1st Paragraph: He presents the usual excuses for writing to scope the imputations
of vanity. He tries to explain that everybody often read autobiographies and memoirs
about aristocracy, monarchs, kings, saints… but his story is only about a black
individual who reinterprets the official history: the history of Africa.
Before Olaudah Equiano could describe his native land, he had to take into
account the myth people in Western countries had about Africa: a country of savages,
barbarity.
3

The author, in his description of Africa, will have to destroy the European image
of his country as a place of savages, created by white travellers. He has to do this
because:
a) As a black individual, he knows that this is not the authentic image.
b) If he wants to arise the sympathy of white readers and to make them identify
with his point of view, he must describe Africa in ways similar to an
European society. If there is no identification between this image and the
readers, Equiano will not be believed. He is describing Africa in an admirable
way to the reader.
2nd Paragraph: He has to legitimate his importance as a person with noble
origins, as the reader. In the description of the history of Africa, he uses positive
adjectives. He is an example of the life of the people who live in Africa.
His father was a chief, so he belongs to the aristocracy. Conversation between
equals: in his description he describes himself and his family as nobles. He is criticising
the western idea that Africa is a society with no political organisation, with no laws.
3rd Paragraph: “We are almost a nation of dancers, musicians and poets”. The
author tries to tell us that Africa is not a barbarian land, but it is a land of justice, of law,
of culture. Africa is described as the most superior land. Thus, Equiano changes the
expectation of the reader.
Chapter II
Page 681
He is trying to recreate his memories and to show sins that symbolise the horror
of slavery, the destruction of the black men’s spiritual life and the alienation produced
by this institution. Language is very important for him because:
a) The obligation to learn English will make him a stranger to his culture, to his
native world. Whereas African languages are easy –he learns them quickly-
because all they belong to the world he knows. This shows the difference between
his African origins and the process of dispossession he will suffer in the new
world with a new knowledge.
b) In his text, learning English is used as a process that serves Olaudah Equiano to
criticise and observe objectively the new world. The less English he knows, the
more innocent his voice sounds. The more English he masters, the more civilised,
western, the more accommodated to the new situation he becomes.
Black slavery in Africa was not so terrible. They were treated by their black
masters. He uses this statement so that the reader can compare the situation between
slavery in Africa and in the new world. Any time he can, he compares his birthplace
with the new world and Africa is always favoured.
He uses the image of him and his sister sleeping with the master in the middle to
symbolise the future separation of families when arriving in the New World.
Literatura de Estados Unidos desde los orígenes hasta el siglo XIX· 3

There is a direct address to the reader when he is talking with a language of


sentimentality, trying to move the reader’s heart. He uses a gendered language because
he is talking about the situation of black women: rape, loss of innocence, her moral
value in society… The sexual exploitation of black women.
He is already advancing in this chapter some of slavery for women.
Page 683
Africans described as cannibals in all 18th century texts: Olaudah Equiano takes
the same image and turns it round. His description of Africa conforms to the 18 th
century social utopia. But in his text the savages, horrible monsters are thr white men.
He has changed the image and now the beautiful ones are the blacks. This is one of the
first-hand descriptions of the beginning of the Middle Passage. He tells us what the
black Africans felt when they first came aboard.
Page 685
More description of first hand. He describes the Middle Passage as a Dantesque
inferno.
Page 687
Again a direct apostrophe to whites. He tries to show the contradiction between
theory and practice in Christianity as an abstract doctrine and how white Christians put
it into practice.
He is again pointing out the family destruction, a sacrosanct bond.
Chapter III
He talks again about language. He is alone and he cannot talk to anybody. Then
he comes into a white man’s house (entering the white world) and finds a black woman
with an iron muzzle. She cannot speak, eat or drink; she keeps silence. The image is a
silenced black woman cooking in a white house. It is a metaphor of the situation of
blacks in America: in the white house (America), they have to work, but they cannot
speak; their voices are suppressed.
Equiano, telling himself this story, shows the journey he has made from slavery to
freedom and from orality to written culture.
In relation to writing, at the end of chapter III, he explains how he tried to talk to
books. He is referring to the topic talking book, in reference to the black voice. White
books do not talk to him because there are no blacks in those books. In consequence,
black people have to write their own history themselves. Blacks only will have talking
books if they write books themselves.
Equiano talks about the iron muzzle to talk about the ignorance of the black
voice. As a male black narrator, he uses women to show the horror and the moral
perversion of slavery. The woman with the muzzle represents the horror of slavery.
Equiano uses blacl women in his narrative not only to talk about black female’s sexual
exploitation, but as a representation of black race’s exploitation.
4

Page 697
This is the most horrifying moment in the text. Again we have a first hand
experience about what was life like during the Middle Passage (aboard).
Olaudah Equiano talks about the constant rapes of black women even when they
were younger than 10 years old. He is actually voicing a truth everybody wanted to be
blind to. The question of rape was (and is) a taboo. He is saying that this is part of
slavery and denounces the moment those rapes are produced.
Later male narrators will also use the body of black women –the violent
depredations of the chastity of black women- to show on one hand the perversion of the
system and on the other to soften the terrible pressures of slavery on black masculinity.
At that time, a man was someone who could protect their family but black men could
not protect their family. Saying that all the sexual exploitation is concentrated on
women helps sometimes the black men to keep some sense of masculinity, but this is
always a problem in the text. He is a slave and as such he is submitted to the will of the
white men and, at the same time, he has to show the reader he possesses the capacity to
have some control.
Black women were sexually exploited and that transformed them into objects.
Whites were responsible for this and not any intrinsic quality.
Whereas a black man was castrated because he had been with a white prostitute
(the lowest woman of her species), the white sailors who raped black women in the boat
were not condemned. Equiano is also condemning these different laws. He is claiming
that both, blacks and whites, are human beings, both can be spiritual creatures.
The black narrator is talking about his life, but at the same time his individuality
is representative of his race. He is talking about himself and he must also talk about the
rest of his brothers and sisters. The black narrator has the duty to talk about the people
he represents: his race.
Pages 688-689
Equiano has to accept the name his captain gives him because otherwise there
will be violence. It shows the unlimited power of the captain over him. Gustavus Vassa
is a historical character and this was common: to name slaves like that to make fun of
them. He will also keep proudly the name that tells of his African origins.
Equiano compares Africa and the new colonies: West India, England. We need an
African perspective in this text. In Equiano we see typical aspects of slave narratives,
not only the physical journey from Africa to the new world, but also a cultural
transformation from orality to literacy, from savagery to civilisation.
Frederick Douglass’ text takes Equiano’s narrative as inspiration, as an example,
but there we have a vision of American slavery from the point of view of a black man
born in the slave south. This illustrates what slavery must have been like for the Afro-
American men, but not yet for women. For this, we have Harriet Jacobs’ text, so we can
compare this text with Frederic Douglass’.
Literatura de Estados Unidos desde los orígenes hasta el siglo XIX· 4

FREDERICK DOUGLASS – NARRATIVE OF THE LIFE OF FREDERICK DOUGLASS, AN


AMERICAN SLAVE
Frederick Douglass is the first black leader. Until 1815, Douglass becomes the
spokesman of the black race, the representative. When there are racial problems,
Douglass is consulted by Lincoln. Even during the Civil War, he is consulted. After the
war, he was given a consulate in Haiti. The text by Douglass sets an example for later
Afro-American writers. The story of how the black man rises from obscurity, from
oppression to full manhood and freedom becomes the master text, the key for future
Afro-Americans.
Douglass will re-read and revise Equiano’s text. He was very articulate, orally
and in writing. He started working with Garrison, whose abolitionist circle published
Douglass text. His book is divided into 3 parts:
Part 1
It includes the preface by Garrison and a letter by Wendell Phillips, another
abolitionist. Douglass’ text was legitimised, authenticated by the top abolitionist.
Part 2
The black voice is framed by white voices. Douglass knew that his voice, his text,
was introduced and therefore his voice did not come directly to the reader, that these
4

documents were in a way manipulating the reader’s expectations and response to his
own words.
Part 3
An appendix written by Douglass. It is a revision, a reinterpretation of the preface
and the letter by the white abolitionist where Douglass shows his rhetorical power and
his capacity to authenticate his own text even if he is black.

Analysis on Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave


Part I
In this text we find a clash of voices. In the appendix we can listen to the echoes
of Garrison and Phillips.
Page 33
Garrison was to convince people to buy the book and to join the abolitionist
movement. He praises the capacity of Douglass as an orator. If he was convinced by
Douglass’ first speech, the same may happen to the reader of his book.
Page 35
Garrison is talking about himself: his works, his efforts to convince Douglass to
become a speaker. Garrison is the agent and he is proud because he has hired the most
extraordinary ex-slave. Propaganda: he wants the readers to accept the extraordinary
talent of his man. Douglass is under his control. He is a man who speaks following his
political agenda.
Douglass would afterwards diverge from Garrison’s ideas about violence and
would leave him. Garrison thought violence was not needed whereas Douglass thought
violence was inevitable.
Page 37
End of the justification of the document written by the slave: truthfulness.
Frederick Douglass is a mere reporter; he is writing a document. He is not only
expressing his individuality, but he must also represent the southern community of
slaves, not a peculiar one.
Page 42
In the last paragraph. His full name. He can sign his whole name and inscribe his
text in history.
Letter from Wendell Phillips
This text implies a relationship between equals (writer-addressee) a much more
familiar, informal text. There is no date.
Page 44
Slavery is, for Phillips, spiritual death.
Page 46
Literatura de Estados Unidos desde los orígenes hasta el siglo XIX· 4

We see again the name of the writer which has very different connotations from
the name of Douglass. There is no one to authenticate or doubt about Garrison and
Phillips.
Part II
Here we find Frederick Douglass’ text. It is a physical journey from the south to
the north, from slavery to freedom, from darkness to light, from illiteracy to literacy.
The physical journey is parallel to the progressive acquisition of language, of his
capacity to write. Douglass writes himself into being, leaving the classification of
animals. Only through writing could they join the western cultural community. This is
the reason why Douglass’ text mentions so many times scenes of education, of learning.
Page 78
Description of his freedom. Linguistic autonomy. He is free because he can write
and read. Authoritarian regimes control people through education. For the master, the
slave is much more manageable is he does not know anything. Education empowers the
subject. The reader is aware of his struggle and the difficulties of Frederick Douglass
trying to fill the gap of illiteracy, even breaking the law. Frederick Douglass realises
what the power of education means: authority.
Learning the ABD is the pathway from slavery to freedom.
Page 81
He is not only a hero for having escaped to the north, but also for his way of
learning.
Page 82
From now on, he will profit any chance to accomplish his aim. Whether this is
true or not, what is important is the way he describes in front of the reader a very young
Frederick Douglass’ obsession with learning, his understanding of white oppression.
The last paragraph is not true: the children he could have contact with in the
streets should belong to white trash, children who were culturally as ignorant as he was.
He fictionalises the situation in his interest to make the reader appreciate his concern for
the values that the American middle class also valued. Now the black is who
instrumentalises the whites; he is using the whites in his own purpose.
Page 83
Bread: it has biblical implications. Douglass not only instrumentalises white
children in his benefit, but he also changes religious values for education. The bread of
knowledge is no longer Jesus, but learning. He mentions, now and again, how his
process of learning is developed.
Page 86
Any little excuse is a perfect occasion to learn. Whereas in other slave narratives
narrators tell miseries for their lack of food, Douglass is always hungry for knowledge
and education. He is not only interested in writing, but also, as his later role in the
black community will be, he becomes a teacher for other slaves (page 119/120).
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The obligation to acquire learning is not limited to his self-education, bit it is


extended to the whole community of blacks. Thus, he must learn in order to teach
others.
Two steps towards revolution: In the first one, copying of the letters. In the
second one, copy of the master. The next step will be creating his own space, his own
book. He is going to challenge white’s power.
Page 125
This is the next step, the third one: he writes. He forges a past himself. From
copying we reach the next step: forgery. He imitates his master’s writing. Writing gives
you freedom. Now he imitates the role of his master; he is a slave with the power of a
white through writing.
Page 120
He was asked to create a school (others recognise his superiority) and he
accepted. They believe he was superior and he could do it. He is creating himself as if
he were a white middle-class American who enjoys leisure time on Sundays and who,
as a favour, desires to use his free time for the benefit of others.
White masters let them drink or practise boxing in order to get them brutalised.
Whites tried to keed slaves brutalised, to keep them accommodated to the state of
things.
Teaching a black man was illegal, so it became a subversive activity. I this text,
the way to freedom goes through education. He is becoming more and more a hero.
Frederick Douglass can no longer be associated with those degrading creatures.
He is at the same time close to other slaves because of his skin, but also completely
alienated, separated from those slaves he is talking about. That means that Frederick
Douglass is no longer a slave as represented by white voices.
Page 51-52
Frederick Douglass witnesses an event which turns out to be traumatic, difficult
for him to understand and which is the key to understand the horror of slavery. It is so
because it is one of the rare moments in his life where his feelings cannot be translated
into writing: the scene in which his Aunt is brutally tortured by the white overseer.
Frederick Douglass uses, as Olaudah Equiano did in his narrative, a woman to
describe the horrors of slavery. They share a common attitude to describe the horror of
slavery through women.
We cannot hear women speak. They are passive victims. Their bodies are raped,
whipped, but they never say a word. More than this, the black narrators (Equiano and
Douglass) become voyeurs, passive observers of the situation. There is nothing they can
do to protect or defend these women against the white exploitation. This make them
appear as very ambiguous characters –a man who cannot defend his woman-. But by
being a small boy, Douglass justifies his passivity.
Literatura de Estados Unidos desde los orígenes hasta el siglo XIX· 4

The image of the woman being whipped comes from English gothic novel. The
slavery system uses the sexual exploitation of black woman a a strategy to destroy black
manhood.
Page 80
Women (mistresses) were as terrible as masters were. This breaks the picture of
the ideal relationship between black and white women. The black woman slave
becomes a competitor for white mistress. There is no voice for her.
Page 57-58
Music and songs. The gospel and spirituals are the foundations of Afro-American
culture. Double vision: what things look like and what they really are. The songs had a
double meaning. Does a man cry? Here Frederick Douglass does.
Page 58
Metaphor of identity: songs. Usage of present perfect. He is a man in tears. In
literature, men left crying after the World War I. Men cried as much as women during
the Romantic period to express their sensitivity and purity of heart through tears. He is
going back to the song while he is writing. Here the distance between his being a slave
and his disposition as a free man is shown.
Black music had a double message. For whites, that was an expression of joy and
happiness. It was impossible for whites to understand the meaning of that expression
because they did not have an experience like that. Black music expresses sorrow,
sadness, oppression, as flamenco does. Soul, blues, jazz, spiritual, rap… These songs
are coded, they have a hidden message and to understand these songs they must be
interpreted, deciphered.
Page 137
He shows his power, his control. Through silence he tries to keep out of risk the
abolitionists who helped him. If he tells the reader how he escaped, he might be
discovering a hidden secret; he might be giving pro-slavery whites the map used by
other blacks to make their way into freedom. He is breaking the rules of
authentication. Now he knows and the reader does not.
Page 61
Silence, keeping the truth, in the case of blacks, is a question of physical survival.
Although this may be true or not, he uses his story to show how telling the truth is
dangerous. It is a story with a teaching, a moral.
Telling the truth becomes a danger, his honesty cost him death. Blacks must use a
double voice in front of whites because it was a question of life or death.
Whites referred to a black man as boy and a black woman as girl whereas blacks
referred a white man as sir and a white woman as madam: respect. It was a way to
infantilise the black race. Using these words, whites were showing their power and their
social superiority.
Page 112-113
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Frederick Douglass fights physically against a white man, his overseer (Mr.
Covey). Did it happen? We do not really know. The most important is that he writes
about the battle. The important is that it is a black voice who tells about physical
confrontation. It is a subjective viewpoint. The rope is a phallic symbol. The battle with
Mr. Covey is an inflexion point. Biblical language can be read: It was a glorious
resurrection.
Page 107
You have seen how a man was made a slave; you shall see how a slave was made
a man. Here we have a chiasmus. Douglass, from the very beginning thinks of himself
as a man made slave. Now he wants to show how he became a man again by the
physical fight.
Page 111
The root. In the black world Douglass was brought up and lived, superstitions are
extremely important. Frederick Douglass’ loyalties are divided: on one hand he is an
extremely committed black to his own culture (he defends black songs, black double
voice, old beliefs) but on the other hand he knows that his readers, white middle-class
Americans despise, ridicule this world of superstitious beliefs and only believe in
scientific knowledge.
Page 119
This ambiguity is shown here, where we find the only footnote in the whole text.
A footnote is used usually in scientific texts to provide more information, to explain
something. This footnote provides us more information about Sandy Jenkins. He is
showing that he has full control over his text, full authority. As a scientific man, not
only can he read and write, but he has already achieved the skill to comment on his own
text. At the same time, he writes in a very ambiguous tone for his gesture to detach 13
himself from the masses of blacks.
Pages 61-62
If speaking is important in the text, silence is even more important, and silence in
the slaves narratives becomes a source of power. To lie is to survive. Slaves cannot say
the truth because they can die for that reason. We do not care if the case described
happened or not, but Frederick Douglass had the experience of not telling the truth.
Slaves were thought to be liars, without taking into account their social circumstances
(stereotypical view). Frederick Douglass is justifying their behaviours. How will slaves
tell the truth? Not directly, with double voice, irony and signifying, a trope used by
blacks. This name was given by Henry Louis Gates, an Afro-American critic. He talks
about African stories where there is a confrontation between the lion and the monkey. In
the confrontation, the weakest defeats the lion but not using physical confrontation. It
uses its intelligence. It tricks it because it becomes a trickster (like el Lazarillo in
Spanish literature). Monkey defeats the lion through words that do not mean what they

13
To detach: Separarse.
Literatura de Estados Unidos desde los orígenes hasta el siglo XIX· 4

apparently seem, having a hidden meaning, understanding them if reading between the
lines. The only way to fight back, for Afro-Americans, is through words.
Part III
In the appendix, he is criticising American religion. He uses the same words that
Garrison and Phillips had used to qualify Douglass’ narrative.
Page 153
He revises, re-reads the authenticating strategies used by the white abolitionists
with his own text. Religion, Christianity, the paradoxes between the South and the
North.
Page 157
In the pre-texts, the white voice is saying that the black voice is truthful. Now it is
the black voice the one which tells what is true and what is not true. He has become the
one who authenticates the white voice.
Page 159
He signs with bold letters, to insert himself into history by adding the city and the
date.

HARRIET ANN JACOBS – INCIDENTS IN THE LIFE OF A SLAVE GIRL


WRITTEN BY HERSELF
This is the most important slave narrative written by a woman up to now. It was
first recognised, after the 1980’s, to be a truthful slave narrative. Even Afro-American
critics believed that the text had been fully invented for abolitionist’s propaganda.
In 1852, Harriet Beecher Stowe wrote Uncle Tom’s Cabin, the most important
novel written in pre-war America. The whole novel turns about the question of
motherhood.
This is a time when white men and women are completely segregated in the
social and political world. White middle-class women were defined by the cult of true
womanhood. Their social and moral values were limited by the doctrine of this cult.
Women had socially one main role in society: to be wives and mothers, so the
spinster was a monster, a suspicious character. The same happened to men, because in
Protestantism, since Martin Luther King, celibacy was not a service to God.
4

In Catholicism, when an individual wants to devote his life to God, becomes a


nun or a priest and must profess celibacy. In Protestantism, the reverend is always
married because celibacy is suspicious. He has to marry to service God.
Motherhood within the sacred institution of marriage becomes the most important
role for women. It is a way to restrict women to the domesticity. Harriet Ann Jacobs, in
her text, will use the role of motherhood.
If black men were nothing, black women where even less. At this time, there is an
interest, an effort to study, classify and construct the body of marginalised women:
prostitutes and blacks.
When talking about motherhood, we tend to think on temporal terms that the role
of a mother is intrinsic, that to be a mother has unquestionable attributes, an atemporal
definition. But motherhood is a concept that has changed dramatically through the
history of times. It is always changing, and being created by historical circumstances.
At the time Harriet Ann Jacobs writes, black women are studied and their bodies
are compared with the bodies of prostitutes. The body of black women is seen as
something monstrous. She is by definition lusty creatures. It justifies their use, their
denigration as sexual objects. As walking vaginas, they are asking for it.
These are the historical circumstances against which Harriet Ann Jacobs writes.
When she writes her narrative, white readers believe that she is just a monstrous body,
that she has no spirit.
Harriet Ann Jacobs’ book talks about rape, about something happening everyday
in slavery. Rape is a political war weapon, an instrument used to humiliate and defeat
psychologically and physically the enemy. The constant sexual abuse on black women
during slavery had terrible consequences on black manhood. Their rape was a constant
reminder for men, a symbol of their weakness, of their incapacity to protect their
women as men.
When she writes her book, she takes out the iron muzzle put to women and uses
her voice to denounce what is happening to women under slavery: rape, sexual abuse,
violence.
When you start to write about your life, we need narrative strategies, we need
fictional models. Is everything true? We do not know. She is trying to deliver a message
about slavery and some things may have not happened to her, but to another slaves. She
is also writing about a taboo. Thus, she was not believed.
THE BOOK
It is not a novel, but a narrative, as well as Frederick Douglass’ although it uses
fictional devises.
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: She does not want to extend, just to give a
few pieces.
Written by Herself: She has gone from beast to human being, from illiteracy to
literacy. She is the only author.
Literatura de Estados Unidos desde los orígenes hasta el siglo XIX· 4

Quotations: There are two quotations. The first one is from a northern woman
testifying the difference between the north and the south. The second one is a biblical
reference, and is addressed not to all northerners, but specifically to white women in the
North.
The North is blind to what happens in the South. She is addressing to northern
white women because they can feel identified with her experiences.
As a pre-text, the book has a text from Lydia Maria Child, the editor (an
important abolitionist). Harriet Ann Jacobs first sent the manuscript to Harriet Beecher
Stowe, but she did not believe Jacob’s and she felt quite devastated. Then she got in
touch with Lady Maria Child.
White women are considered the angel of the house and, as such, they were the
ones who had to educate their children, teach them religious values and social manners.
The book is divided into 3 parts:
• 1st part: the Cast, the Preface and the Introduction
• 2nd part: the text.
• 3rd part: the Appendix.
Cast of Characters
Jacobs uses fictional names for herself and for her characters. She will be Linda
Brent and that name will be her alter ego.
Preface
It is a direct address to the readers. Harriet Ann Jacobs assures her narrative is not
fiction because she is already aware of the reaction of white readers. She is advancing
with her comments the critics. She, as Douglass, also keeps information for herself and
uses her text not for her own benefit, but for arousing the northern woman conscience.

Introduction by the Editor


The white voice comes in second place. She is justifying Harriet Ann Jacobs’
existence. LMC became well-known because she talked in meetings about slavery:
public political life. She was an outcast, so it would be even worse for a black woman.
Women at the time were not supposed to speak in front of people; their place was
the home, not the agora (the political life).

Harriet Ann Jacobs faces a problem of credibility. We see this in the preface and
also in the introduction. The distance between her audience (white women from the
north) and herself (a black slave woman, an outcast from society) is enormous so she
not only has to invent an alter ego to mask her identity and the identity of her friends,
but she will also have to use the narrative strategies accepted by her audience:
a) A first person tale of a heroic mother.
b) The confessions of a fallen woman.
5

Harriet is saying all the time I’m a mother, I do this because I have children
(heroic mother). All what she did was to help, to educate, to make her children become
free. A mother can do things as a woman that a woman can’t do.
She knows that she is a woman, a black woman slave, so she confesses from the
point of view of a fallen woman.
One difference with Frederick Douglass is that in Harriet Jacobs we have a title in
each chapter which tries to be a summary of the content.
She is writing in the tradition of slave narratives, but she is also writing as a fallen
woman in the tradition of the sentimental novel. A young woman persecuted by a man
who wants to seduce and steal her of her virginity and if she leaves herself and accepts
him, she will become a fallen woman who shows her moral weakness. She will be
punished with pregnancy, forsaken, death of her child, her own death… But if she
survives she either becomes a prostitute or ends up mad. Why? Because this kind of
characters break the social rules, they go against the patriarchal values and they are
punished.
When she was writing, there were a lot of novels about this kind of women. These
women who went against society were imprisoned in the attic, so they became mad. A
house became the literary space in these novels. Harriet Jacobs also uses motives from
the Gothic novel to talk about the slavery.
A maid in flight: Harriet Jacobs is a young woman trying always to escape the
master’s sexual desires. That is the role Linda Brent plays on the book. She fights back
by having children with another white man. To escape the master, she chooses a man
she likes. Why a white man? She was thinking always in her children’s future. It could
be a way of becoming her children free. Moreover, Mr Sands is a middle class man,
with money. Thus, children had the possibility of a better life. In the text, what is
privileged is his social and racial status, not love. Love could have been an actual reason
in Harriet’s life, but not in the text. Politicising sexuality. His decision of getting
involved with Mr Sands was a political decision. Mr Sands at the end betrays his
children. She realises that the North can be also the hell and racism like slavery.
Page 5
I was born slave: Typical of slave narratives. Differently from Douglass, she
knows who her father and her mother were. We do not either have a plantation like in
Douglass’, but an urban environment.
She emphasises the similarities between herself and her audience, as Equiano did.
Without similarities, there is no possibility of identification between the narrator and the
reader and, if there is no identification, the reader cannot sympathise and feel motivated
to exercise political action.
“I was living in a house like you can have” or “I had also a great…” She is a
slave woman, she cannot be considered as a true woman.
Literatura de Estados Unidos desde los orígenes hasta el siglo XIX· 5

The example of true womanhood is her grandmother. When she has problems,
her grandma is the person who helps her, who exemplifies moral values. Everything she
is no, her grandma is. In fact, the last image, memory in her book is for her
grandmother.
Page 27
Black women were, by birth, sexual creatures. In this chapter, she is talking about
this. There is a man who seduces and rapes her, to dishonour her, to corrupt her soul and
she is completely impotent. She is denouncing the black woman slave incapacity to
react, her impossibility to struggle against the master’s will. There is no protection for
her. When black women slaves were 15 stopped being a girl and they awaked to
sexuality. Dr. Flint becomes a demon, a serpent.
Linda becomes a surrogated daughter of her grandmother. The grandmother
represents the embodiment of the cult of true womanhood in a way she is a black true
woman. Pure in her principles, the woman chastity, motherhood, generosity, honesty…
She is the perfect supporter of white moral values and it is aimed to the reader’s
admiration and respect for that woman. Dr Flint fears and respects the grandmother. She
is sinless, immaculate.
Page 28
She talks directly to the reader, she is accusing the reader for his/her passivity, of
his no-reaction against slavery. She is accusing them directly.
Page 53
She always takes responsibility of her actions. Even, if she is a victim, passive
and impotent, she uses that passivity, impotence to struggle against her master, and to
stress the fact that a woman’s dignity is not related to her behaviour. In that society, a
woman had dignity as a woman if they went on the conventional rules: virgin, married,
with family.
Sexual violence: She is always persecuted by her master. According to her text, it
seems she has not been raped by her master. She seems to have done everything to
protect her right to choose a sexual partner. She is who chooses the man and who
chooses to have two babies: she is not a victim. She did as much she could to keep her
right; she is not a passive subject like the woman with the iron muzzle.
In white texts, women can be tragic mulattos exploited by their masters (harlots)
or mummies like in Gone with the wind, a surrogated mother who loves white children
much more than her own children. Mummies were castrated because they gave their
lives to white children.
In black texts, women are silenced, passive victims. But Jacobs is breaking all
these models. She is not silenced and not a mummy. She is a heroic black woman, a
mother who sacrifices her own freedom until she can get the freedom of her children.
She is a woman able to take her own decisions, although this assertion of freedom, of
her capacity to decide, is problematic in her society.
5

Page 55
She asks forgiveness to her reader (white north woman) because Jacobs knows
that they will not include her in their conception of what a true woman is, but at the
same time she underlines the fact that her historical circumstances justify her behaviour.
Page 77
She may have fallen once, but she falls twice. How can she justify her continuous
sexual relations with a white man? Another link to life: children are a justification of
life. Culturally, women and men are aimed to marry and have children (since these are
God’s orders).
She emphasises again the differences between slavery for men and for women.
She concludes it is far more terrible for women.
Contrary to the mad women in the attic of 19th century literature, she is not
imprisoned in the attic, but she imprisons herself. She becomes active in her own
escape: she is not a victim. She uses the resources she has at hand.
The Scarlet Letter’s protagonist and Jacobs are fallen women, but the difference
lays on their skin. Both are models of women who rebel against society (19th century
Romantic heroines). Jacobs knew about The Scarlet Letter because she had read it.
When Linda Brent is in the attic, she suffers a Calvary, but still using and
manipulating writing. It is, for Jacobs, not only a way to write herself and the drama of
woman slave into history, bit a way to manipulate and destroy the oppressor. She writes
letters which mistake the master and drive him crazy.
After the seven years she spent in the hole, she had paid her debt: it is like a sort
of penitence. She goes through darkness to reach the light. After all that, she is not
happy, contrary to Douglass and Equiano.
She is realistic and her history is not a sentimental one. She is free, but she has no
money. She has nothing of her own freedom. She has no economic independence. There
is no slavery in the north, but there is racism. Black people are apart.
Page 184
Linda talks about the economic differences between America and Europe. Pro-
slavery writers defended the argument that the poor people in England were much
worse than the slaves in the south.