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Comment 18 of 88, added on August 4th, 2011 at 10:19 AM.
Wheatley begins by crediting her slavery as a positive, because it has
brought her to Christianity. While her Christian faith was surely genuine,
it was also a "safe" subject for a slave poet. Expressing gratitude for her
enslavement may be unexpected to most readers.
The word "benighted" is an interesting one: it means "overtaken by night or
darkness" or "being in a state of moral or intellectual darkness." Thus,
she makes her skin color and her original state of ignorance of Christian
redemption parallel situations.
"mercy brought me" and the title "on being brought" is playing the
violence of the kidnapping of a child and the voyage on a slave ship
credits "mercy" with her voyage -- but also with her education in
Christianity. Both were actually at the hands of human beings.
In the second-to-last line, the word "Christian" is placed ambiguously. She
may either be addressing her last sentence to Christians -- or she may be
including Christians in those who "may be refined" and find salvation.
Garima from India
Comment 17 of 88, added on April 11th, 2011 at 10:29 PM.
Phyllis Wheatleys "On being brought from Africa to Americ
Great. Her use of words, the irony set the tone. She would have been hung
out to dry if she openly criticize her captors. You could imagine what
would have happened to her if she was open.
from United States
Comment 16 of 88, added on January 8th, 2011 at 9:11 AM.
Nice blog, unsympathetic! Inventor wonderful servant!
Genial blog, cold! Originator super humanity!
EphentyEveply from United States
Comment 15 of 88, added on September 14th, 2010 at 3:40 PM.
Before Public Enemy and Tupac you have a woman who used her intellect
to convey a message of hope and equality,or a sarcastic attack on the US
power structure? I am not quite sure !!
from United States
Comment 14 of 88, added on April 12th, 2010 at 7:49 PM.
I'm not sure where the rest of you are getting your information, but
Wheatley was in no way pro-slavery. What she was, was a female slave who
was allowed to write poetry and even have it published. Can you imagine
what would have happened if she had openly critiqued slavery or current
racial beliefs in her poems? Her masters, kind though they might have
been, would have immediately forbidden her from writing anything further.
This isn't to say she lies and supports slavery but instead, that her
critiques are very subtle. The second stanza carefully places "Christians,
Negros, black as Cain" all together so that the meaning is more difficult
to discover. There are at least two possibilities: one, that she is
implying Negros can be Christians and the other, that Christians too can be
"black as Cain" (that is, marked by sin). She's pointing out that there's
no reason Negros shouldn't be saved as well, regardless of their skin
color, because whites and blacks are in the same boat as sinful people.
And she's pointing out the hypocrisy of the whites who believe themselves
better than she and her fellow Africans. Yes, her perspective on Africa is
skewed, but the reason for that is that she only knew of Africa what her
masters and other Americans told her--of course she had it backwards! And
as a Christian, can't she be grateful for the opportunity to know God?
Simply because she has absorbed the sociocultural idea that Africa is a
pagan land doesn't make the fact that she values her faith any less
important. Don't be too quick to judge.
Elizabeth from United States
Comment 13 of 88, added on March 4th, 2010 at 10:20 PM.
um to manuel, she did not learn on her own. her master, john wheatley,
taught her...so I agree with Trixie. At first I thought that this poem
sounded like a brainwashed slave, and then i thought it was sarcastic, but
now I see it is simply what she belives.
Lauren from United States
Comment 12 of 88, added on November 2nd, 2009 at 3:27 PM.
Hello?? What is wrong with you people??? Wheatley was pro-slavery! She
happened to find herself in a cushty situation where she got bed, board and
a priveleged education, so she went "sod the rest of my race", who she knew
full well were being abused and exploited. She was the one person who could
have helped emancipate her race, she could have written about the horrors
of slavery, she could have shown that slaves were intelligent, equal
humans, but she chose not to, because she happened to have it good. She is
not a poetic pioneer, she is a race raitor. And a really avergae poet.
Trixie Santini from Canada
Comment 11 of 88, added on May 30th, 2009 at 2:03 PM.
Phyllis Wheatly refers to her homeland as Pagan, meaning
non-monotheistic...unfortunatley, the word has a negative connotation...if
she were to write the poem today i believe she would have changed the word
for another...her homeland may have been non-monotheistic at the time but
ilene novick from United States
Comment 10 of 88, added on January 13th, 2009 at 11:46 PM.
I love it! Phyllis is a wonderful poet who is not afraid to express emotion
in poems. I wish I was more like her.
Ingid from United States
Comment 9 of 88, added on February 22nd, 2008 at 3:25 PM.
Phyliss Wheatley seems to support slavery in all her poems. I don't know if
she is extremely positive or she is just not aware of her servitude.
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