The most effective way to comprehend a particular style of writing is to imitate it. With this in mind your task for this quiz is to imitate the style of writing that was used by most slave narrative authors of the 17th, 18th and 19th century. In order to accomplish this you must first look closely at the way each slave narrative author has presented his or her work. Particularly, you will note that there are several overlapping features within each of the narratives we have read for this course. Each writer is humble, articulate, intelligent, discreet, and authentic. Their use of language is quite impressive. This was the expected protocol of slave writers during their time. In order to gain acceptance from their audience, these writers had to convince their readers that in fact they were credible eyewitnesses to slavery—that their accounts of what happened during slavery were altogether accurate. As such, slave writers strove to use their best language when recounting their stories. This was so that others (whites) might feel compelled to help abolish slavery.
One way of accomplishing this was to write in an apologetic style whereby they would acknowledge their own inadequacies as a writer and hope that their audience would still find their stories worthy to be accepted.
Your task for this quiz is the same. You will peruse the two selected narrative excerpts below and decide which style of writing appeals to you the most. Using that style of writing as an example, you will compose a slave narrative introduction of your own. Your slave narrative introduction will serve as the start to your first paper—the slave narrative.
In essence, you will write an imaginary preface to your own slave narrative. Look closely at the use of language between the two selections. Study both writers’ use of language. Your challenge is to be as articulate as possible while displaying a sense of humility in your tone. You want to convince your audience that your story is authentic.
You are allowed to follow the “style” of your chosen writer as closely as you would like to as long as you are original with your own wording and with your own story idea. A good introduction (preface) will be between 275-350 words including the title, the salutation and the closing address. Put your word count at the end of your apology. (Confer with the two example apologies below.)
From The Interesting Narrative of the Life of Olaudah Equiano, or Gustavus Vassa, the African, Written by Himself
To the Lords Spiritual and Temporal, and the Commons of the Parliament of Great Britain.
My Lords and Gentlemen,
Permit me, with the greatest deference and respect, to lay at your feet the following genuine Narrative; the chief design of which is to excite in your august assemblies a sense of compassion for the miseries which the Slave-Trade has entailed on my unfortunate countrymen. By the horrors of that trade was I first torn away from all the tender connexions that were naturally dear to my heart; but these, through the mysterious ways of Providence, I ought to regard as infinitely more than compensated by the introduction I have thence obtained to the knowledge of the Christian religion, and of a nation which, by its liberal sentiments, its humanity, the glorious freedom of its government, and its proficiency in arts and sciences, has exalted the dignity of human nature.
I am sensible I ought to entreat your pardon for addressing to you a work so wholly devoid of literary merit; but, as the production of an unlettered African, who is actuated by the hope of becoming an instrument towards the relief of his suffering countrymen, I trust that such a man, pleading in such a cause, will be acquitted of boldness and presumption.
May the God of heaven inspire your hearts with peculiar benevolence on that important day when the question of Abolition is to be discussed, when thousands, in consequence of your Determination, are to look for Happiness or Misery!
MY LORDS AND GENTLEMEN,
Your most obedient,
And devoted humble servant,
March 24, 1789.
From Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl
BY THE AUTHOR
READER, be assured this narrative is no fiction. I am aware that some of my adventures may seem incredible; but they are, nevertheless, strictly true. I have not exaggerated the wrongs inflicted by Slavery; on the contrary, my descriiptions fall far short of the facts. I have concealed the names of places, and given persons fictitious names. I had no motive for secrecy on my own account, but I deemed it kind and considerate towards others to pursue this course.
I wish I were more competent to the task I have undertaken. But I trust my readers will excuse deficiencies in consideration of circumstances. I was born and reared in Slavery; and I remained in a Slave State twenty-seven years. Since I have been at the North, it has been necessary for me to work diligently for my own support, and the education of my children. This has not left me much leisure to make up for the loss of early opportunities to improve myself; and it has compelled me to write these pages at irregular intervals, whenever I could snatch an hour from household duties.
When I first arrived in Philadelphia, Bishop Paine advised me to publish a sketch of my life, but I told him I was altogether incompetent to such an undertaking. Though I have improved my mind somewhat since that time, I still remain of the same opinion; but I trust my motives will excuse what might otherwise seem presumptuous. I have not written my experiences in order to attract attention to myself; on the contrary, it would have been more pleasant to me to have been silent about my own history. Neither do I care to excite sympathy for my own sufferings. But I do earnestly desire to arouse the women of the North to a realizing sense of the condition of two millions of women at the South, still in bondage, suffering what I suffered, and most of them far worse. I want to add my testimony to that of abler pens to convince the people of the Free States what Slavery really is. Only by experience can any one realize how deep, and dark, and foul is that pit of abominations. May the blessing of God rest on this imperfect effort in behalf of my persecuted people!
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