Life in 1815

“I was glad to avoid the road, though. The possibility of meeting a white adult here frightened me, more than the possibility of street violence ever had at home.”

Dana appears in Rufus’s room just in time to save him from burning the house down and killing himself just like how he almost drowned himself when he was about five. When she hears the language Rufus uses to address her and of the way Rufus’s father treats him and people like her, she questions him about where and when she is exactly. After questioning Rufus for a while about where she is and what year she’s in, Dana comes to a realization of exactly how dire her current situation really is. Learning from Rufus that she has traveled to the year 1815, Dana has landed at the heart of slavery in the United States.

I found it very interesting how she was more afraid of being seen by a white person than she was of encountering street violence back home. Based on history lessons and textbooks we read today, we know just how poorly African Americans were treated during that time. Now that Dana has been placed exactly in that time period, she comes to realize what it would mean for her if she was to be found wandering the streets alone without free papers. She would be dragged onto a plantation and forced to endure hard labor as a slave whether or not she was actually free. Dana experiences the same feelings of fear her ancestors and slaves had felt back then.


The Mistress’s Wrath

“The Creole is generous, hospitable, magnificent, but vain, inconstant, and incapable of serious application; and in this abode of pleasure and luxurious ease vices have reigned at which humanity must shudder. The jealousy of the women was often terrible in its consequences.”

I found this quote interesting because it depicts not only the author’s admiration for the Creole ladies but also her sympathy for the slaves. The author admires the ladies’ bravery and attitude after living through such a horrible ordeal that is the revolution. She compliments their physical appearances as well as their “air of dignity” from “the habit of commanding their slaves.” These women were able to overcome these times by displaying “talents and found resources in the energy of their own minds.” During a time when women were considered inferior to men and merely objects like the slaves, the author lauded the women’s newfound courage and talents.

However, she also recognizes the insanity and brutality that these women also possess. In one account, a mistress ordered for a slave’s head to be cut off after she thought she saw her husband starting to show some affection towards the slave. Then during dinner when her husband didn’t have much of an appetite, she proposed that she has something that would “excite” his appetite and pulls the head of the slave out of the closet. I found this particular scene to be a bit comical because of its absurdity. By using words like “unfortunate victim” to describe the slave and “monster” to describe the mistress, the author displays a sense of understanding that these slaves have it rough too. Towards the end of the letter, the author states that if she ever wanted a friend, she still wouldn’t come to these people because she wouldn’t “rely on their stability.”


Prospero’s Manipulation for Power

“Hast thou, spirit, performed to the point the tempest that I bade thee? To every article… ” “And,as thou badest me, In troops I have dispersed them ’bout the isle. The king’s son have I landed by himself”  (Act 1, Scene 2 lines 194-195, 219-221)

This conversation took place between Prospero and Ariel after the storm and shipwreck, and after Prospero tells Miranda of her past and who she is. From this exchange, we find out that Prospero was the one who conjured up the storm. He sent Ariel, his spirit servant, to cause the shipwreck and disperse certain people around the island. By doing so, Prospero can control the interactions and outcomes of each figure and eventually regain his former status and power. As observed in this interaction, each character are merely pawns whom Prospero employs to his advantage. 

This interaction is crucial to the play because it reveals that everything that happens going forward, was preplanned and anticipated by Prospero. By isolating Ferdinand, Prospero instills feelings of helplessness and abandonment in him. He is able to manipulate him into accepting any help he can get. This results in Ferdinand listening to Ariel’s song about his supposed dead father and following him to meet Miranda. Ferdinand meets Miranda and the two instantly takes interest in each other. He believed Miranda to be a goddess of the island and Miranda, never having seen another human being before other than her father, instantly falls in love. This is exactly what Prospero wanted as demonstrated in line 23 when Prospero says, “It goes on, I see, As my soul prompts it” after observing Miranda and Ferdinand profess their love for one another. In scene 4, Miranda and Ferdinand gets married which seals the union between the two families. Because Ferdinand is a prince, Prospero, as Miranda’s father, regains his noble title. This whole play can be viewed as Prospero’s manipulation of events to regain his former title and glory.


Amerigo Vespucci’s View of the Natives

“…they themselves wonder why we do not eat our enemies and do not use as food their flesh, which they say is most savory. Their weapons are of bows and arrows, and when they advance to war they cover no part of their bodies for the sake of protection, so like beasts, they are in this matter.” (35)

I believe this sentence represents the view Vespucci had on the natives. Vespucci describes the natives as barbaric individuals who “observes no sort of law” and live according to nature. The people are portrayed as cannibals who eats the flesh of war captives and wages war against other tribes. Children are taught to fight and kill and women when given the opportunity, were “urged by excessive lust, they defiled and prostituted themselves.” The people are portrayed as unorganized and weak with bow and arrows as weapons and no armor to protect themselves. In addition, throughout the letter Vespucci also describes the abundance of resources available. He speaks of the fertile land and hills, mountains, rivers, springs and forests. He recounts the roots and herbs the natives used to care any diseases and prolong their lives. He also describes the immense uncultivated trees that  yields fruits and seeds that he has never seen before. Most importantly, Vespucci informs of the vast amount of gold and pearls that the natives hold no value to. Vespucci’s descriptions of the unorganized barbaric people and abundance in resources are an invitation for others to come claim all these riches awaiting them.