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The Slave Mother Analysis

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During the American colonies, Phillis Wheatley was one of the first African-American women to publish a book of poetry. Both her poems, “On Being Brought from Africa to America” and “To The Right Honourable William, Earl of Dartmouth” emphasize the importance of slaves wanting freedom. Similarly, Frances E.W. Harper’s poem “The Slave Mother” dramatizes the pain a slave mother undergoes when she is separated from her child. Both authors use an identifiable persona as a means to appeal to their White female Christian audience religious beliefs or familial values. By maintaining a didactic tone in order to question their audience 's morality, as well as effectively using either lament full or melodramatic imagery to render emotions such as compassion…show more content…
Altogether, this forces her audience to feel uncomfortable and guilty about learning the corruption slavery imposes on families. Just like Wheatley needed to familiarize herself with her audience, Harper successfully draws attention to her audience by emphasizing the persona of a mother. This is seen when she uses anaphora to dramatize the following quatrains, “[h]e is not hers, although she bore/ For him a mother’s pains;/ He is not hers, although her blood/ Is coursing through his veins!/ He is not hers, for cruel hands “(14-24). Harper is educating her audience by informing them that even though a slave mother gives birth to her child, she is not the caregiver of her child. In fact, when she repeats “he is not hers”, Harper uses a didactic tone to really condemn the fact that a slave mother is being robbed the natural right to raise her own child. At this moment Harper asks for humanity and pushes for empathy from her audience. One must note that Harper lived in an era where childbirth was very dangerous. In fact, both White and Black women were very familiarized with the vast amount of maternal and infant mortality rates. For example, “Infant mortality among African and African-American slaves in the 18th century ranged from…show more content…
Thus helping her argument about taking action and critiquing those who prefer to stay silent. From the very start, Harper requests an immediate response from her audience. She does this by asking her readers, “Heard you that Shriek? It rose” (1). This is important because Harper begins with a personal question that makes a reader think of a moment where they encountered a desperate cry. By using words such as “it rose”, Harper is setting up a dramatic tone that suggests that her poem will get crueler. Harper continues using melodramatic imagery as a means to appeal to her audience senses. This is especially seen when she states, “Saw you those hands so sadly clasped -/ The bowed and feeble head-/ The Shuddering of that fragile form-/ That look of grief and dread?/ Saw you sad, imploring eye…”(5-9). Harper invites her white female Christian audience into visualizing the desperation a mother and son feel when they are being separated. The fact that her audience is forced to hear, and see the lament full situation of the slave mother helps to provoke their own internal sadness and pain. More importantly, her audience would be full of grief because they would be forced to see that these slaves are human beings, who express emotions like despair. One thing to remember is that historically some
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