"white Guilt" and the American slave trade

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“ Ah, mater,” sighed the black, bowing his face, “don’t speak of me; Babo is nothing; what Babo has done was but duty.”

“Faithful fellow!” cried Captain Delano. “Don Benito, I envy you such a friend; slave I cannot call him” (Melville 495)

Let me just start by saying that this story was not my favorite mostly because it seems to tell the reader a story he or she has already encountered.  It seems to be discussing the slave trade to the Americas a story that has been over played in its many versions.  However Melville adds an interesting twist to this story using symbolism to further contributing to the notion of “White Guilt” as used in the book Rereading America. The way African Americans were treated on their voyage was tragic and Melville creates an in depth picture for his readers when he continues to explain the Conflict that Captain Delano holds within himself. His duets and morals become the angle and demand on his shoulders. “ Ah, mater,” sighed the black, bowing his face, “don’t speak of me; Babo is nothing; what Babo has done was but duty.” “Faithful fellow!” cried Captain Delano. “Don Benito, I envy you such a friend; slave I cannot call him” (Melville 495) Captain Delano feels guilty of treating people whom he has become friends with through learning the language and feeding the slaves on the boat.

Melville also delivers this passion through colorful text, mostly colors that drive from the far ends of the spectrum. From black to white, and from light to dark.  As one may already know where the American slave trade is concerned color has everything to do with this event. The first page is full of dark imagery not only with the usages of the word Gray but also in the form of Shadows. Melville never hides the direction of his story “Shadows present, foreshadowing deeper shadows to come” (Melville 489.) Foreshadowing the state that America is in today. Melville seems to know what is to come in the future and is blaming Americans for their own out-come, Thus creating again the notion of “white Guilt.” 

Then you have the other side of the spectrum Light and white. … There is too much to write about I give up. J

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1 Comments

James Lohr said:

It's terrible that slave trade has ever taken place...sadly it still does. There is a very high demand for kidnapped girls for a sex slave trade that thrives in our world today. I had read this work before, and so i had some idea of what i was getting into. As appalled as i am with the idea of slave trade at all, what caught my attention is more the thought of following our gut feelings. If Captain Delano had followed all those brief glimpses he had of what was really going on, things would have turned out to be very different. I wonder if Melville wasn't using this idea to show a similar message about the slave trade in general. If people took the time to listen to their gut, maybe they would have realized that it was wrong.

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