Rhetorical Analysis of the Confessions of Nat Turner

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In The Confessions of Nat Turner, Thomas R. Gray attempted to provide the public with a better understanding of “the origin and progress of this dreadful conspiracy, and the motives which influences its diabolical actors” (Gray, 3). Gray hoped to replace "a thousand idle, exaggerated and mischievous reports" with a single, authoritative account of the event. To do so, he had to establish that the confession was voluntary, that the transcript was accurate, and that Turner was telling the truth. As for the sincerity and truthfulness of the prisoner, Gray said he cross-examined Turner and found his statement corroborated by the confessions of other prisoners and other circumstances. While he claims that these confessions were recorded “with little or no variation”, Gray’s verbose introduction addressed to the public was intended to frame Turner and as a psychotic villain that was rightfully punished for his unlawful acts against society. In an effort to make Turner appear more sinister, Gray described Turner as being “a gloomy fanatic revolving in the recesses of his own dark, bewildered, and overwrought mind, schemes of indiscriminate massacre to the whites” (Gray, 3). Though he may not have been as vicious as Gray portrayed him to be, the description was meant to “to bring its object into a field of vision, to make that object ‘speak’ for itself convincingly and to give it form, character, and tone” (Browne, 319). This horrific image of Turner was intended to shape the minds of the public in such a way that their minds would be made up before even reaching turners actual confessions. Browne points out that “by assuring the reader of the text's veracity… and by designating the monstrous motives that drove him to such deeds, Gray prefigures not only the narrative to follow but establishes the readers' preferred stance toward it”, which given the events is a negative one (Browne, 319). The authenticity of this document is something to be contested. As a lawyer...
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