Does Phyllis Wheatley Use Religious References to Warn Her Readers About Slavery and Sin and Its Repercussions?

Topics: Sin, Christianity, Ancient Egypt Pages: 3 (767 words) Published: March 31, 2005
Does Phyllis Wheatley use religious references to warn her readers about slavery and sin and its repercussions?
Throughout the poem, "To the University of Cambridge, in New England", Phyllis Wheatley suggest that she accepted the colonial idea of slavery, by first describing her captivity, even though this poem has a subversive double meaning that has sent an anti-slavery message. Wheatley's choice of words indicates that her directed audience was educated at a sophisticated level because of the language chosen. Her audience was assumingly also familiar with the bible because of the religious references used. The bible was used as a reference because of its accessibility. Wheatley uses religious references to subversively warn her readers about slavery and its repercussions and to challenge her reader's morals.

As the poem starts out, Wheatley describes being taken from her "native shore" to "the land of errors." Her native shore was the western coast of Africa, and she was taken to the "land of errors" which represents America. America is seen in her eyes as the land of errors because of slavery. Wheatley is acknowledging right off the bat that slavery is wrong. Wheatley then goes on and references the "Egyptian gloom" which is italicized. The italicization forces the readers to focus and reflect on "Egyptian" and it's possible Smith-Joseph 2

meaning. The "Egyptian gloom" symbolizes Egypt and one of the most famous biblical stories was the story of the enslaved Egyptians. Wheatley than goes on and says, "Father of mercy…" referencing the Lord, "‘twas thy gracious hand

Brought me in safety from those dark abodes."
The Lord spared the slaves in Egypt and safely delivered them from the evil treatment. Wheatley is trying to subversively express that the Lord will be gracious enough to deliver the slaves from the "dark abodes", or bad treatment as he did the Egyptians in biblical times. Throughout the first stanza of the poem, Phyllis Wheatley...
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