Examination into the true heart of experience and meaning, Charles Johnson’s Middle Passage looks at the structures of identity and the total transformation of the self. The novel talks about the hidden assumptions of human and literary identity and brings to view the real problems of these assumptions through different ideas of allusion and appropriation. As the novel tells Rutherford Calhoun’s transformation of un-awareness allows him to cross “the sea of suffering” (209) making him forget who he really is. The novel brings forth the roots of human “being” and the true complications and troubles of African American experiences. Stuck between posed questions of identity, the abstract body is able to provide important insight into the methods and meanings in Middle Passage.
Middle Passage’s protagonist , Rutherford Calhoun, shows that identity is a dangerous “middle” experience for the African American offspring that endured the middle passage. As a survivor of a unknown place and subject to total isolation of his own personal experiences we find Rutherford searching for meaning. The novel questions the structure of human and literary identity by testing the power of duel oppositions and abstraction to portray the meaning of experience: "Our faith in fiction comes from an ancient belief that language and literary art all speaking and showing-clarify our experience" (Being 3). By questioning the African-American experience, Johnson radicalizes faith and is able to show the complexities of experience and change. Johnson’s examination into identity, which we can see as both human and textual, depends mainly on the appropriation for its literal and pensive methods. This contradictory space of ...
... middle of paper ...
...o becoming "like any other men," or if not like every other man they become more like Rutherford himself:
“They were leagues from home - indeed, without a home - and in Ngonyama's eyes I saw a displacement, an emptiness like maybe all of his brethren as he once knew them were dead. To wit, I saw myself. A man remade by virtue of his contact with the crew. My reflection in his eyes, when I looked up, gave back my flat image as phantasmic, the flapping sails and sea behind me drained of their density like figures in a dream. Stupidly, I had seen their lives and culture as timeless product, as a finished thing, pure essence or Parmenidean meaning I envied and wanted to embrace, when the truth was that they were process and Heraclitean change, like any men, not fixed but evolving and as vulnerable to metamorphosis as the body of the boy we'd thrown overboard. (124)”
Need Writing Help?
Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.Check your paper »
- The middle passage was a sea journey by slave ships from West Africa to the West Indies and Americas from 1601-1857 (University). The first successful African author, Olaudah Equiano (Donaldson) portrays the vivid details and personalizes these destructive forces of slave trading during the middle passage. In his narrative, Equiano influenced British abolitionists, as well as European slave masters, and convicted them of their wrongdoing. Slave trading during the middle passage was the most destructive thing to happen within the African culture because of the harsh physical and psychological effects, inhumane treatment, and dehumanization of slaves.... [tags: Slavery, Atlantic slave trade]
1390 words (4 pages)
- There is no other experience in history where innocent African Americans encountered such a brutal torment. This infamous ordeal is called the Middle Passage or the “middle leg” of the Triangular Trade, which was the forceful voyage of African Americans from Africa to the New World. The Africans were taken from their homeland, boarded onto the dreadful ships, and scattered into the New World as slaves. 10- 16 million Africans were shipped across the Atlantic during the 1500’s to the 1900’s and 10- 15 percent of them died during the voyage.... [tags: slavery]
1719 words (4.9 pages)
- The Middle Passage: Tracing the Path from Human to Commodity In order to better understand why and how subhuman treatment arose and its effects on slaves in the Middle Passage, I have chosen to focus my research around how the presentation of slaves being treated differs according to different accounts in their rhetorical context. My research will center on the book The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano by Olaudah Equiano, in which the author recounts his experience as a slave going through the slave trade.... [tags: Slavery, African slave trade]
1211 words (3.5 pages)
- The Middle passage and early America are crucial events that took place in African American History. Africans where forced from their homelands in Africa and forced onto a ship, unknowing the hardship they would soon encounter. Ships filled compactly with African men, women and children as they journeyed in squalor, diseases, starvation and despair. Shackled together like animals, the early African in the Americans were slaves. Servitude was not foreign to African people; before the Africans were slaves they were indentured servants.... [tags: Slavery, Atlantic slave trade, African slave trade]
939 words (2.7 pages)
- A popular literature has painted this part of the slave experience as uniquely evil and inherently more inhuman that any of the others horrors of the slave life(Klein 130). Slaves were taken from their homes and was forcibly traded.One cannot, of course, mention the Middle Passage without eliciting the horrors of tightly packed men, women and children chained together, to keep them from rebelling, or from choosing the suicidal fate of jumping overboard. The mortality of captives in Africa, therefore, included not only losses among those headed for export at the Atlantic coast but the additional losses among those destined for export to Orient among those captured and transported to serve Afr... [tags: Slavery]
895 words (2.6 pages)
- Reading Portfolio Middle Passage is a novel filled with different techniques such as allusions, foreshadowing, humor, character transitions, and many other techniques. Charles Johnson, the author of this amazing novel wanted the readers to acknowledge the past and present events. He connects the past and the present with many different examples. One example is when the police hit Santos for no reason. This comparison is made very clear and simple enough for the readers to understand that police brutality continues to this day.... [tags: African-American Literature]
494 words (1.4 pages)
- INTRO Examination into the true heart of experience and meaning, Charles Johnson’s Middle Passage looks at the structures of identity and the total transformation of the self. The novel talks about the hidden assumptions of human and literary identity and brings to view the real problems of these assumptions through different ideas of allusion and appropriation. As the novel tells Rutherford Calhoun’s transformation of un-awareness allows him to cross “the sea of suffering” (209) making him forget who he really is.... [tags: Literary Analysis, Charles Johnson]
1238 words (3.5 pages)
- Most history books has recorded that between the years 1701-1760, millions of Africans were literally stolen away from their native lands leaving behind their families, work, heritage, and everything that was familiar to them. Robbed of their independence and ‘humanness’; they were reduced to cargo. This was what ‘the Middle Passage’ also known, as the ‘Slave Triangle’ was all about; the trading of goods and commodities among continents including the trading of black men, women and children who were treated like property.... [tags: essays research papers]
799 words (2.3 pages)
- Middle Passage European slavers altered the way that different African people viewed one another and themselves. The book by Miguel Barnet, Biography of a Runaway Slave is a strong account that can be used to explore how Africans changed their perception of each other, and how this change influenced the lives of Africans in the Americas. First of all it is important to examine how many African slaves were brought to the New World. The Middle Passage is infamous route of the ships that carried slaves to the Americas.... [tags: History]
1311 words (3.7 pages)
- Middle Passage The triangular trade system was so named because the ships embarked from European ports, stopped in Africa to gather captives, after which they set out for the New World to deliver their "human cargo," and then returned to the port where they had originated. The Middle Passage was that leg of the slave triangle that brought the "human cargo" from West Africa to North America, South America, and the Caribbean. Depending on ship design, weather conditions, and points of departure and arrival, the journey across the middle passage lasted from six weeks to three months.... [tags: essays papers]
428 words (1.2 pages)