Monday, February 22, 2010

The pathology of slavery in Southey

Reading Southey's poem I couldn't help but think of my other major (African American Studies). In many of my classes we have discussed the slave trade and discussed the epidemics of racism and slavery as social sicknesses. I think this poem, while progressive for its time, is demonstrative of that sickness. I make this argument chiefly because of the way the African woman is portrayed and objectified in the piece. While it is clear that she is enduring great pain and suffering at the hands of the sailor, her pain is not important. Her suffering only is significant because it causes him mental duress. This treatment of her pain as unimportant except as it applies to his is a key component of what caused the ethical breakdown necessary among "civilized" people that would cause them to implement widespread chattel slavery. While Southey himself seems very against the slave trade he doesn't seem to necessarily regard the woman as human or equal and his qualm doesn't seem to be with the enslaving but simply the whipping. Just a thought.

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