Rime of The Wiser Professor

Creative Project:

Said he to the students entering—

Facing all of sixty seats:

“Charmed to greet you, ye who enter,

Praise be unto those who brave these 18th-century seas!”

But whoa, oh alas!

How he beckoned in vain,

Casting down forlorn students

With a mandated 15% participation grade.

So little he asked,

And yet so outwardly they grieved

Eyes downcast upon the floor, one failed quiz followed another,

From those unfortunate enough to have forgotten to read

O! trembled it did, his forsaken heart!

To witness their great collapse,

Each student, vigorless and vacant of interlude

Fallen wordlessly into terminal relapse

They lie silent in every row, careening the time

As their eyes glazed over in weariness, each grade paid its toll;

Like Death wrapped in lyrical hymns—while their professor requested very little—

CatCourses demanded their souls.

“Cursed am I!” The sore professor wept.

“Like the undead, they sit and they wallow!

I bring them tea and satire and metal,

Yet, their very understanding of what it means to be here—to be alive— appears too difficult to swallow!”

And yet, marched onward he did through an unresponsive scene;

Cursing the monotonous hues—

The purples, the greens, and the blues—

All glistening on the projector screen.

Inspired by the Romantics (and perchance Sir William Blake)

The professor sought refuge in the outdoors

And with sordid groans and unsightly quakes

Did each student arise from their throne of unrest beyond the door

Trembling was he,

As he witnessed their final claims

Like music each volunteered some insightful counterpoint

Proposing his own unrest as idleness and misunderstanding of their ways

“O! By the humanities!” Did the professor croak,

Gazing with bereavement in the cup of black tea in his hands,

“How peculiar it is, that they seem so averse to reading,

To fulfill their contract’s demands?

“They see not the sunlight glistening, nor the ducks over yonder…

They notice not the effort required— that I supply—

For the creation of such presentations.

Still their attention lay somewhere beyond here.

“And still I stand patient,

Perhaps the wiser for having waited

As they come crawling, evermore frequent,

With their begging: ‘Have mercy upon those who knew so little before!’”

Reflection:

To start: Yes, this poem was intended to sound extremely bitter.

This was my attempt at a lyrical ballad. Specifically, it is a recreation of Samuel Coleridge’s Rime of the Ancient Mariner. The purpose of this project was to utilize the presence of “zombies” within Coleridge’s poem as a reflection of the attitude of many at the start of the semester. It would be accurate to say that this poem exploits the expectations of the student with respect to those of the professor; in simpler terms, I think that more appreciation ought to be expressed towards those who do as much as possible to provide us the best education they can. Moreover, where there is often a discrepancy between the relationship of the teacher and the student, it is easy to place blame on the wiser when one chooses not to participate in self-reflection.

-Savie Luce

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Redemption at it’s Finest

Thomas Moore’s “Dear Harp of My Country” beckons the the symbol of the harp as a means of praising it while also providing personal insight as the state of the political climate. Moreover, Moore views his own poetry as a means of rescuing the “harp” from its previous dejection. The poem, designed as an ode to his heritage, beckons to the harp as a symbol of suffering, as Thomas Moore writes:

“If the pulse of the patriot, soldier, or lover,/ Have throbb’d at our lay, ‘tis thy glory alone” (14-15).

The harp, as it was symbolic for Gaelic culture and its presence in court (through Bard-like intervention), became a symbol of intricate work and sophistication that evolved through time. It was, as Giraldus Cambrensis stated, “The sole redeeming characteristic of an otherwise barbaric race” (www.harspectrum.org). Moore elaborates on the refined aspect of this instrument, calling attention to the sweet music it projects. But instead of focusing on the player of the instrument (as the ones who gave the tune its redeeming grace) he calls attention to all the wrong committed towards the harp.

Moore begins the poem by claiming that he found the instrument in darkness, furthering this to claim that (through his poetry) “I unbound thee,/ And gave all thy chords to light, freedom, and song” (3-4). Though abused and neglected in a historical context, here Moore makes the claim that it were authors such as himself which salvaged the name and heritage of the Harp through literature.

While previously the harp only received recognition in court (as a result of its performance by a servant), here Moore exploits the fact that authors such as himself are utilizing it to bring praise to the culture it represents, giving voice to the speechless. And while Moore bids the Harp goodbye in a sad recognition of the dwindling number of harpists, he grants the harp entrance into a heaven filled with “the sunshine of Fame on thy shoulders” (12).

-Savie Luce

Percy Shelley’s Philosophy in 2019

[Please note that this is a parody of Percy Shelley’s “England in 1819”. It places his philosophies and constructs in the modern world and satirizes them.]

A sad, angsty, bewildered, misunderstood, and frustrated boy

Romantic at heart, the product of a fortunate face and a mischievous mind, that ponders

The integrity of social justices; How God walked the halls of University,

Knowing not the dissociation between his love for knowledge and his unwavering hold on power,

Calling it blasphemy to marry the arts with the scientific

Segregating a love which only the Socratic could call lust.

How far would you wander to see the two consecrated?

Born again through your ideals, as a product of your own romances?

You knew not of Camus, nor Sartre or Bataille; lingering yonder in the morrow

Nor how they two would hide their ideals between their teeth;

A lie bound tightly by what the “Virgin” Mary would call promiscuity

Borne again through Creatures and Monsters, playing God between graves

“But behold,” still you preface, Frankenstein in hand, “This touches not the philosophical. Nor the modern day, somewhere in the distance.”

-Savie Luce

Self-Loathing Starts with Nature Watching

What is beautiful in wasting away? Though perhaps the title is one constructed to convey more hope than is actually present in the text, Wordsworth’s lyrical ballad, “Lines Left Upon a Seat in a Yew-Tree Which Stands Near the Lake of Esthwaite, On a Desolate Part of the Shore, Yet Commanding a Beautiful Prospect”, is reminiscent of the withering of mankind and potential as a result of pride. This message, in respect towards Caspar David Fredrich’s “The Monk by the Sea”, seems to embody how the act of self-reflection can lead an author to, as Wordsworth writes it, “Revere himself,/ In lowliness of heart” as a result of nature watching (Wordsworth 59-60).

This painting seems to embody a very similar image to that which Wordsworth describes in the first stanza of the ballad, which describes the Yew-Tree as lonely and far from mankind. He writes: “What if these barren boughs the bee not loves;/ Yet, if the wind breath soft, the curling waves,/ That break against the shore, shall lull thy mind” (Wordsworth 4-6). Not only is this description on par with what is depicted in Caspar David Fredrich’s 1809 painting, but it sets a different tone to the painted work. Whereas one could initially perceive the existence of the Monk in the painting as standing in solitude, the idea of him standing in loneliness changes the way in which one would access the work.

The first lesson to be learned from this ballad, though inspired from the seat under a lone Yew-Tree that overlooks a lake’s edge, is that grief is an isolating ordeal. The second lesson is simply: feelings are not food. This journey of self-reflection takes the reader on a journey to understand a student who attempted to sustain himself on pride in response to the rejection of a world he had never before been privy: reality (Wordsworth 47-48). As he withered, so did the world surrounding him, and though these visions of beauty within the natural world can appear appetizing in literature, that is no way to fool the body in deriving nourishment from such foolish ideas.

Perhaps that is why this is a place that is incapable of love from even nature, as it is abandoned by even the natural world (Wordsworth 4). Perhaps that is why in Caspar David Fredrich’s 1809 painting the majority of the piece is consumed by an overcast sky, as the sea and the land are too empty to be worthy of masterful attention. Perhaps the Monk in this work can be understood as Wordsworth understands himself in the natural world; within and without. He is apart of the words he inscribes on paper, and yet he is distant from the message. The paradox is that the sage advice he grants the reader, in conclusion, is a result of an introspective journey that arises as a result of observation.

Pride is likely as fruitless as the landscape of Caspar David Fredrich’s painting, which is likely why such a seen produced so many feelings of self-loathing and regret in the poet’s heart. Self-loathing (apparently) begins in the natural world and demonstrates itself through isolation. This is to say that Caspar David Fredrich’s “The Monk by the Sea” is still beautiful. Certainly, it is, but it is also nostalgic, especially in the lens of hindsight.

-Savie Luce

Bet You Didn’t Think I Was Gonna Talk About Science, Did You?

The fickle notion of modernizing any concept, in this circumstance that would concern the poetic and the music genre, is that the evolution does not retain all of the characteristics it once had. Things, especially living things, tend to move away from attributes it does not deem necessary. However, every so often, something relatively useless to the organism or concept will linger, either out of sentimentality or utter confusion. In evolution, this is seen known as a vestigial organ, and even human beings have them (appendices). Whales have them too: hip bones. My point is that, though we can clearly see the link between poetry, especially Romantic poetry, and heavy metal (as well as Rock and Roll) it does not necessarily suggest that the two resemble one another strongly.

Though it tries, Iron Maiden’s version of Samuel Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” does not embody the qualities which would allow it to accurately resemble the Romantic poetry it attempts to imitate as a consequence of lyrical sacrifice in order to promote musical performance. This is where one can most clearly witness the transition from the poetic to the musical: wherein the instrumental is privileged over lyrical advantage and pacing is a result of the performer’s preference rather than the author’s inclination. This, in several ways, veers from the sentiments that Romanticism that the lyrical ballad written by Coleridge once embodied, allowing for the predilections of heavy metal to insert themselves into the lyrics instead.

For example, Romantic poetry is focused on self-reflection as a result of outward observation, especially when that observation is of nature. The lyrical ballad is no exception to this, as is seen in this example: “About, about, in reel and rout/ The Death-fires danc’d at night;/ The water, like a witch’s oils,/ Burnt green and blue and white” (Coleridge 123-126). However, the visuals offered as a reflection of the tale unfolding within Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” are exploited as the saturated fan-art of the first Pirates of the Caribbean movie. The contrast between these two visuals is its veering from the beautiful to a set focus on the undead aspect of the poem. By taking away this, Iron Maiden, unfortunately, discarded what might be called a staple of the Romantic period. In addition to this, the promotion of the zombification taking place in Coleridge’s poem distracts from the journey within “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner”, essentially missing the point present in the lyrical ballad. To put it simply: the poem was not just about the undead coming back to life, Iron Maiden, so leave your angsty ideals at the door.  

In many ways, the Romantic form of poetry was an appeal to the lower class in its ability to invoke sympathy in the reader (or listener). Yet, there is nothing selective about the heavy metal genre which suggests that it would have appealed in majority to the lower class; the income of the listener hardly affects their ability understand the music, let alone enjoy it.

Furthermore, the pacing of the music does not linger upon the pacing of each verse (which is likely a result of the style of heavy metal). While Iron Maiden does justice to the poem by transforming the musical nature of the ballad, the swiftness of each line’s delivery does not allow one to ponder long on the meaning of the verse, as the intention is to enjoy how it sounds above what the line implies. And while Iron Maiden does slow the pacing of the song significantly as a result of the dead falling and rising, which is a reaction that promotes reflection on the event, the song is hindered in it’s forced summarization of the poem. Granted, to include every verse of the original poem in the song was not possible (and even if it did, no one would have the patience to sit through all of that), but to suggest that a summary of a poem can still embody the details of what the author might have implied is simply not possible.

The movement from lyrical ballad to a heavy metal song does not entirely preserve the Romantic qualities of Coleridge’s “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” in Iron Maiden’s performance of the poem. But, in many ways, it wasn’t necessarily supposed to. Instead, it demonstrates the evolution of one art form into another, leaving vestigial traits that we (the readers) can analyze. This is to say that, though the song is unlike the Romantic poetry it was inspired by, it is reminiscent of what is musical about the genre. In other words, it is an evolution of its impactful traits.

-Savie Luce

“Sympathy for the Devil”: The Most Underrated Rolling Stones Song of All Time

[Okay, let’s all just pretend that first blog post never happened because I definitely was looking at the wrong prompt. Sorry Zakir, it won’t happen again. On a different note, I highly recommend listening to the Rolling Stones song that this post was so lovingly named after, because it’s really good, and the odds suggest that I’ll never get the chance to write about it ever again.]

The Interesting Life and Narrative of Olaudah Equiano is a showcasing of the transformation of man through his endurance in slavery. This narrative is an example of how education and cunning allowed one man to purchase his liberty, while also achieving spiritual enlightenment and literary stamina. However, this text is filled with quotations from a plethora of other authors and works, including one of the most controversial pieces of the time: John Milton’s Paradise Lost. By including work such as this one, Olaudah Equiano is suggesting that perhaps sympathy or grace upon those cast away as damned is necessary, literally making him a sympathizer of the Devil.

Some context is necessary if one is to make a claim such as this. Paradise Lost is a religious work of prose which describes the downfall of Lucifer. The poem is written from the perspective of the Devil, staging Lucifer as the story’s protagonist and God as the antagonist. As the work was published in 1667, this piece was one of the most controversial publications of its time; for Equiano to sympathize with it, as well as relay it in his own narrative only complicates the matter. To claim that Equiano is sympathizing with Lucifer by quoting various passages wherein he bemoans the maltreatment he has, in his opinion, been undeservingly delivered, is not an over-exaggeration of religious affiliation. It is a claim that, as Olaudah Equiano is clearly an intelligent individual who understands the piece enough to stitch it into his own narrative, he knows exactly what sort of claim he is making. By reestablishing God as an antagonist, he is not so much stunting his own religious journey as he is placing European or White individuals in the outline of his place, giving a vivid example of how others played God with the lives of slaves.

In The Interesting Life and Narrative of Olaudah Equiano, one of the boldest passages quoting Paradise Lost is seen near the conclusion of Volume one. It states:

“——— No peace is given

To us enslav’d, but custody severe;

And stripes and arbitrary punishment

Inflicted— What peace can we return?

But to our power, hostility and hate;

Untam’d reluctance, and revenge, though slow.

Yet ever plotting how the conqueror least

May reap his conquest, and may least rejoice

In doing what we most suffering feel”

(Milton, Paradise Lost, 2.232-40)

Imagine being so bold as to claim God a figure of conquest over all he already created? Imagine arguing that God was the root of all suffering through punishment of his own design in such a religiously warred time? Imagine making the claim that God enjoys reaping the benefits of others’ suffering? The boldness of Milton’s piece speaks for itself, but by choosing this passage in his narrative Olaudah Equiano is also stating that the justification of the conquest of people cannot be founded upon religious affiliation unless some sort of response is expected. Sympathizing with Lucifer, his narrative is claiming that revenge and hostility are only natural responses to such unwarranted treatment. Not only is he flaunting his literary ability to read and understand a text, but he is also advertising his ability to make loaded statements under the guise of “not aspiring praise” while comparing himself figuratively and literally to Lucifer in Milton’s piece (Equiano, The Interesting Life and Narrative of Olaudah Equiano, 35).

This is why, at the start of his narrative, Equiano states: “I regard myself as a particular favourite of Heaven” (Equiano, The Interesting Life and Narrative of Olaudah Equiano, 35). Lucifer, for those unaware, was cast from Heaven for having loved God too deeply, as he was God’s favorite angel until the creation of mankind. Equiano is then regarding himself as a greatly wronged figure in his own story, using Milton’s poem to justify his feelings of necessary revenge and hostility on the matter, while also illuminating the actions of man as they parallel the antagonist of Paradise Lost: God.

-Savie Luce

The Problem with Heroics

One of the consequences of writing satire is that if your work is given enough influence and recognition, it is inevitable that your readers will begin to mock you in return. Granted, Alexander Pope was hoping that such a circumstance could be avoided by targeting an audience he deemed too illiterate or stupid to comprehend his work, but alas this scheme was put only into a temporary guise. How long had he expected ignorance to last after he named an esteemed writer the King of Dunces? Whiplash, for Alexander Pope, came in the form of this picture (Image #1):

Which made comments on his own physical disability, as he was known to be a smaller man. The image features Colley Cibber, the mocked Hero of Alexander Pope’s satirical works, pulling Pope from the body of a brothel woman, in an attempt to “save” him from disease and harm, as Edward Rich looks on at the scene. Placing Cibber as the hero in a satirical literary context parallels with his representative role in Pope’s epic as a hero, but makes Pope the fool instead.

However, this scene is reminiscent of a small scene in Alexander Pope’s Dunciad Book 4, wherein the passage states:

“My sons! (she answer’d) both have done your parts:

Live happy both, and long promote our arts.

But hear a Mother, when she recommends

To your fraternal care, our sleeping friends. [440]

The common Soul, of Heav’n’s more frugal make,

Serves but to keep fools pert, and knaves awake:

A drowzy Watchman, that just gives a knock,

And breaks our rest, to tell us what’s a clock.

Yet by some object ev’ry brain is stirr’d; [445]

The dull may waken to a Humming-bird;

The most recluse, discreetly open’d, find

Congenial matter in the Cockle-kind;”

(Pope 437-448)

The ‘she’ in this stanza, the goddess Dullness. The ‘sons’ she cries for are none other than the Cibber and other writers such as himself who were promoted by their foolish ideals rather than genuine merit. For all his heroism, he is only further mocked by being told to produce more of the dull affairs which spurn “common souls, of Heav’n’s more frugal make” (Pope 441).

If course, the Harlot in the image above is no stranger to Pope’s epic either. She can be seen here:

“When lo! a Harlot form soft sliding by, 20  [45]

With mincing step, small voice, and languid eye;

Foreign her air, her robe’s discordant pride

In patch-work flutt’ring, and her head aside:

By singing Peers 21  up-held on either hand,

She tripp’d and laugh’d, too pretty much to stand; [50]

Cast on the prostrate Nine 22  a scornful look,

Then thus in quaint Recitativo 23 spoke.”

(Pope 45-52)

Yet, she appears as a figure of power, not something to be scorned for touching to gazing upon. She is the focal point of the scene for many more stanzas and is given a commanding presence over all other characters, including Cibber. So, though the scene above depicts our author in a state of moral and physical duress, through the lens of Pope’s epic it depicts Cibber servicing the morals of a commanding Harlot, so that he might further breed the common mind amongst society. Edward Rich cuckolds the scene, playing the role of the Watchman so diligently, only informing the scene of something ulterior by suggesting his role as Earl of Warwick associates other political positions with being guilty of his regard.

Through the lens of these stanzas in Alexander Pope’s Dunciad Book 4, what can be perceived as bullying can also be understood as the characters he mocks fulfilling the exact roles he prescribed them. From this prospect, they are just as foolish for attempting to shame the vices that they defend in the illustration above. In the end, Cibber is favored by the Goddess of Dullness in attempting to play the heroic role that Pope designed for him.

-Savie Luce

Are You Ready to Talk About That One Time Gulliver Slept With Several Underage Giants? Great! Me Neither, but Here We Go!

In Part 2, “A Voyage to Brobdingnag”, our protagonist Gulliver delivers to his audience several explicit encounters with the maids of honor at the Brobdingnag court who attempt—and thoroughly fail—to seduce him. He states his disgust plainly here: “The maids of honor often invited Glumdalclitch to their apartments, and desired she bring me along with her, on purpose to have the pleasure of seeing and touching me. They would often strip me naked from top to toe, and lay me at full length in their bosoms; wherewith I was very much disgusted; because, to say the truth, a very offensive smell came from their skins” (127). The crux of the situation is simply this: Gulliver is naked, the maids are also naked, and Gulliver is grossly displeased at the sight and smell of them. Though he finds it unpleasant how inconsequential his presence is made to be for them, he never explicitly turns away their company. To further this, Gulliver also never outwardly confesses to having coitus with them either, very similar to the way that Mary Rowlandson fails to mention if she partook in smoking tobacco with King Philip in her captivity narrative.

Allow me to take a moment in this blog post (informal as it may be) to introduce a precursor which might add some context to the aforementioned events: at this point in the narrative, Gulliver is able to articulate himself clearly with the folk of Brobdingnag, who express a deal of concern towards his health and well-being. His wishes are often respected and understood: the dwarf who antagonized him is whipped and the girl who nurses him is allowed to continue caring for him in the royal court. This is to say that, were he entirely opposed or unwanting of the aforementioned scenes, an explicit ‘no’ or a sign negating consent would have terminated them immediately. This is a right Gulliver eventually uses, as he later requests not to visit a particular maiden who disgusted him more than the others (128). For all his objection to their physique and odor, these were not actions which occurred against his will (although his general state of captivity certainly did).

The events which took place between Gulliver and the maids of honor paralleled the mention of Mary Rowlandson’s meeting with King Philip, wherein she was offered the opportunity to smoke with him. Though she conveys her opposed inclination towards the act (just as Gulliver expresses his dislike of the Brobdingnag maids) the redaction of her choice from the narrative suggests that she may have done so, which speaks volumes about her true relationship with her captors and their culture. In this way, Swift is satirizing Gulliver’s relationship with the citizens of Brobdingnag through his interactions with each of these maids of honor, suggesting that his disgust for their appearances would not deter him from being able to form strong bonds with them, just as Mary Rowlandson manages to form a relationship with King Philip. His real relationship with the Brobdingnag people, in the state of his capture, is then deterred by the narrative in question.

-Savie Luce


Diary Entry: February 19th, 1830

For many years, I wondered how the lives of the indigenous -though we are no longer called such- appeared from the White Man’s perspective. ‘Perhaps,’ I thought, ‘one might find a reason or sensible justification for the acts demonstrated in these past years’. My dear reader, what I found struck me as absolutely incredulous. Upon introducing myself to Mrs. Rowlandson’s horrid and bloodied experience, I found myself able to grasp the terror that might be received as a consequence.

I wonder if what I truly desired was a narrative more forthcoming from a White Man, one of the first who decided to take and segregate, the one who birthed the idea of a lesser man. I wondered at the response and actions of the Native Men who slaughtered children, but then I also wondered how many in my own culture lost children in such grotesque fashions. I, too, was baffled at the unexpected kindnesses shown to our dear Mrs. Rowlandson, before considering how kind it was that the White Men decided to “give” my people land of their own. How foreign the first few must have felt, suddenly not to belong to even themselves, or the land they were raised on.

With her sufferings I sympathized deeply. At moments, I found empathy as well. Nonetheless, her tidings I forced myself to approach with cautious distance. The words “God-fearing Christian” wandered in my mind as I read, and I felt myself grow ever the more concerned at a fear I could love- though I myself am a Christian. It troubles me to think of what Mrs. Rowlandson might say were she to know that I am of the same faith as she. How this woman should find herself grateful for having endured as she did makes me tremble with anger, as she states:

“Before I knew what affliction meant, I was ready sometimes to wish for it. When I lived in prosperity, having the comforts of the world about me, my relations by me, my heart cheerful, and taking little care for anything, and yet seeing many, whom I preferred before myself, under many trials and afflictions, in sickness, weakness, poverty, losses, crosses, and cares of the world, I should be sometimes jealous least I should have my portion in this life, and that Scripture would come to my mind, ‘For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every Son whom he receiveth’ (Hebrews 12.6). But now I see the Lord had His time to scourge and chasten me. The portion of some is to have their afflictions by drops, now one drop and then another; but the dregs of the cup, the wine of astonishment, like a sweeping rain that leaveth no food, did the Lord prepare to be my portion. Affliction I wanted, and affliction I had, full measure (I thought), pressed down and running over. Yet I see, when God calls a person to anything, and through never so many difficulties, yet He is fully able to carry them through and make them see, and say they have been gainers thereby.” (Rowlandson, A Portion of the Twentieth Remove)

Was my –our- suffering something that I was not mindful enough of to be grateful for? I cannot help but question the authenticity of justifying one’s own suffering, as though what my people have been given is a gift, disguised in the silent voice of God. Mrs. Rowlandson’s narrative is not my own, I am aware, but I doubt that her deity and my own are of the same origin, as I can see no other way for her prejudiced heart to carry on unweighted under the eyes of her God. How else then could she speak the language of the Algonquian tribe and share the company of smoke with King Philip while preserving her racism so thoroughly? Then at least, I would not be so unraveled by her assumption of my not being glad enough of my circumstances. “What we have given you is a gift,” she seemed to whisper to me as I finished her narrative, “and you should be thankful, as I am, to have struggled and endured. We understand one another now in our experiences and sufferings.”

‘Not, quite, Mrs. Rowlandson,’ I recall thinking. ‘Yours had an end, you see. Where is mine?’

(Something else compels me to profess that this entry was heavily inspired by a woman of the name Savie Luce. I suspect a number of entries and statements written by myself to resurface in the 21st century in the form of a “blog post”. Whether these “blog posts” retain authenticity is subject to question).

The Convoluted Nature of Reality: The “Moby Dick” Edition

In reading Mary Rowlandson’s narrative of her capture by the Algonquian tribe, I can’t help but be reminded of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick, in that it complicates a history of intolerance while also providing new insight on cultural differences. Of course, Melville’s novel places a focus on native members with cannibalistic tendencies while also exploiting their most uncouth, and likely fictitious, habits. In agreement with Mary Rowlandson’s narrative, Melville initially supports and encourages segregation from strange cultures through stressing concern for the safety of his narrator (Ishmael). Yet this narrative is ultimately complicated after Ishmael establishes a heartfelt friendship with one of the cannibalistic natives he feared previously: Queequeg.

As Moby Dick is a fictional novel, this transition from racism to kinship is not completely surprising. Anything can happen in fiction, after all. Even homicidal whales. This is to say that, by comparison, Mary Rowlandson’s recount of her capture and the eventual friendship she forms with her masters and company is more than a little perplexing. And though her narrative does not fail to include moments wherein she was beaten and abused, or when her own religion was mocked by members of the Algonquian culture, it also includes a number of Algonquian phrases and words which were included as a means of expressing the unique characteristics of this tribe more accurately. Though Mary Rowlandson is very much opposed to her capture, she eventually expresses a certain tone of respect for the Algonquian natives.

There are many who view this expression of respect solely as a survival tactic, which is not an unfair argument to make. This was also the foundation of Ishmael’s friendship with Queequeg in Moby Dick. Much like Mary Rowlandson’s narrative, Ishmael’s deep respect and understanding of the cultural and religious beliefs of his friend Queequeg do not exempt him from believing that Queequeg’s cannibalistic tendencies are wrong. Mary Rowlandson’s personal relationship with her captors does not align with typical prejudice experienced by the majority of her own culture. This complicates the representation of these cultures in literature in that, even in fictional contexts, it is almost impossible to paint one event or culture as wholly good or bad if one wants to describe it accurately. It is important to remember that- though Moby Dick is a novel which contains its own dictionary of whaling terminology, as well as a thoroughly cited history of whaling tactics and a list of well-known species of whale and their given attributes -much of the novel is apocryphal. This pertains specifically to a great deal of the lore surrounding the natives referenced in the novel. And in cases such as John Dryden’s play, The Indian Emperour, and John Winthrop’s “Dreams of a City on a Hill”, a great deal of fictional narrative was adapted to make these realities or futures seem attainable. This isn’t to say that we shouldn’t dismiss Cortez’s affection for Cydaria or Ishmael’s friendship with Queequeg, nor should we disregard Winthrop’s ideals of this “city” as something entirely motivated by destruction. The irksome reality of it all is that the motives for all of these relationships, speeches, and narratives are very complex. Mary Rowlandson’s recount of her capture, and her friendship with her captors, undoubtedly complicates many other historical narratives of native intolerance. How we should compare and contrast these narratives is a question for another prompt.

-Savie Luce