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Metaphors from Slavery to Post Emancipation: An Exploration of 'The Loophole of Retreat' and 'The Veil'

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One of the obstacles that African American writers had to face during the eighteen and nineteen hundreds was effectively communicating with white audiences. The white audience ranged from supporters of abolition and black rights to past or present slaveholders. Authors had to reach southern and northern audiences and have an appearance of humbleness to attract some and action to attract others. One of the methods that was used to make their writings attractive across audiences was metaphor. This literary device allowed them to code meaning to present information in the dosage that each type of audience needed. This paper will explore “the loophole of retreat” in Harriet Jacobs’ Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl and “the Veil” in W.E.B. Dubois’ Souls of Black Folk and examine how the respective authors used these metaphors to code hidden meaning for the various types of readers. This paper will also explore how the use of metaphor changed and remained the same from 1861 when Incidents was written to 1903 when Souls debuted. Literary scholars have explored interpretations of “the Veil” and “the loophole of retreat” for years. “The Veil” comes from W.E.B. DuBois’ figurative metaphor that represents the divide between black and white people and black and white people’s ability to understand one another. One of DuBois’ main reasons for writing Souls was because he, “sought...to sketch, in vague, uncertain outline, the spiritual world in which ten thousand thousand [black]Americans live and strive” (DuBois 3). He goes on further to say that he has,“stepped within the Veil, raising it that you [the reader] may view faintly its deeper recesses...” (5). This metaphor and other metaphors by DuBois have been used across time to addres... ... middle of paper ... ...icedness, and reiteration, at the end they were highly effective as saying different things to different audiences. Works Cited DuBois, W. E. B. The Souls of Black Folk. Champaign, IL: Project Gutenberg, 1996. Internet resource. Green-Barteet, Miranda A. "“the Loophole of Retreat”: Interstitial Spaces in Harriet Jacobs’s Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl." South Central Review. 30.2 (2013): 53-72. Web. Holton, Adalaine. "To "tell Again in Many Ways": Iteration and Translation in the Souls of Black Folk." Arizona Quarterly: a Journal of American Literature, Culture, and Theory. 66.3 (2010): 23-43. Web. Jacobs, Harriet A. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988. Print. Wolfe, A.P. "Double-voicedness in Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl: ``loud Talking'' to a Northern Black Readership." Atq. 22.3 (2008): 517-524. Web.
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