American Literature

A Print and Digital Survey

Dickinson’s Writings

Dickinson kept a clean and concise writing style. She had a very thought out control as she never seemed to actually run out of space on the various things she would find to write. Even torn pieces of paper seemed to not hinder her writing’s pace. There aren’t any erase marks on the work of hers we found. This could lead one to believe that these aren’t the original drafts. We know from the various letters she sent people over time that she remained in contact with. And she would often send her poetry to people with various revisions with and without dashes present in them. She most likely didn’t keep the original writings and only left the more complete volumes behind. The dash works as a flexible entity meaning different things at different times. It’s something she used in her poetry frequently, but also for grocery lists and cake recipes. We could probably conclude that she knew that her poetry would eventually be found and published. The thing that most likely kept her from doing so in her lifetime was her own anxiety. And although she may have been reclusive, the fact remains that she was reclusive to the point where a myth could be substantiated about her.

Telling it All!

Danielle McDuffie

English 370

May 7, 2015

Telling it All!

Being that Harriet Jacobs was the first African American known to have a slave narrative she exposed how badly African American slaves, specifically the women, were treated during the years of slavery. Jacobs started writing her narrative in 1853 and as we all know during this time in our country blacks were considered as property. White slave owners controlled the lives of these slaves and treated them as different forms of servants. Although Jacob’s narrative did show how badly blacks were mistreated during slavery, it gives special emphasis to how the women were mistreated due to white male lust, and also shows how they were often take away from their families and offspring. Jacobs’s narrative may be about her life, but her story serves as a representation of what many black women had to endure at the hands of their white slave owners.

“O virtuous reader! You never knew what it is to be a slave; to be entirely unprotected by law or custom; to have the laws reduce you to the condition of a chattel, entirely subject to the will of another” (828).

Blacks as Property

From the start of Harriet Jacobs’s narrative we immediately see that blacks had no rights to their own lives when she tells us that her father’s strongest wish was to purchase his own children, although he never succeeded. She also expresses to us the admiration she has for her maternal grandmother, and how her grandmother had much faith and intelligence that she was thought of as a valuable piece of property. When Jacobs was a young girl her kind and loving mistress passed away. Although Jacobs’s mother and grandmother had the reputation of providing loyal and satisfactory service to their slave owners, Jacobs was not granted her wish of being set free.

“The reader probably knows that no promise or writing given to a slave is legally binding for; for, according to Southern laws, a slave, being property, can hold no property” (820).

“But, alas! We all know that the memory of a faithful slave does no avail much to save her children from the auction block” (821).

No Rights to Love

A young colored carpenter proposed to Harriet Jacobs, and although she loved the kind man she knew that her owner Dr. Flint would not allow her to marry and to live a free life. When approached Dr. Flint to ask for his approval he only physically and verbally abused Jacobs. She loved he carpenter lover, but she was aware that he could not protect her and that they could never live a happy or safe life without having to worry about white slave owners; therefore this caused Jacobs to separate herself from the carpenter. She did not want him to ever suffer due to her trapped destiny.

“[…] but if I was married near home I should be just as much in her husband’s power as I had previously been, – for the husband of a slave has no power to protect her.” (822).

A Fight for My children!

In order to save herself and her children from her owners, Harriet Jacobs hid in a small shed in her grandmother’s home for a long period of time. She had to sit in a cramped position day after day, without any gleams of light. Although she suffered from bad living conditions form living in the small space, she was determined to escape Dr. Flint and be able to live a free and safe life with her children.

“Reader, my story ends with freedom; not in the usual way, with marriage. I and my children are now free! We are as free from the power of slaveholders as are the white people of the north; and though that, according to my ideas is not saying a great deal, it is a vast improvement in my condition” (839).

A Female Slave Pattern

There have been many stories of women in the United States that exposes they had to endure the same sexual and physical abuse as Harriet Jacobs. Black women were often sexually taken advantage of by their white male slave owners, and this would result to the mistresses, who were the slave owner’s wives, to take their hurt and jealousy out on the black female slave.

I read the story of Louisa Picquet who was also born a slave in 1828 near Columbia, South Carolina. Picquet’s master often attempted to have sexual relations with her, but because she sometimes refused she was whipped constantly. Although fiction, there is also the novel Autobiography of a Female Slave by Martha Griffith Browne. It tells the story of a female slave named Ann, and similar to Harriet Jacobs and other slave women, Ann’s master beat her and she becomes the servant of her master’s daughter.

Making a Difference


During slavery times female slaves were looked down upon, being referred to as unmarried slave mothers, as opposed to victims of sexual, physical, and mental abuse. Although these female slave narratives do expose how badly they were treated, the purpose was win the respect from readers and others in society; for these slave women were courageous and had to fight in order to gain freedom. In a letter to friend Amy Post, in June of 1857 Harriet Jacobs explains the difference in women’s lives that she wants her autobiographical narrative to make.

 “I have another object in view— it is to come to you just as I am a poor slave Mother— not to tell you what I have heard but what I have seen—and what I have suffered— and if their is any sympathy to give—let it be given to the thousands—of of Slave Mothers that are still in bondage—suffering far more than I have— let it plead for their helpless Children that they *. . . [obliterated]* may enjoy the same liberties that my Children now enjoy […]” (Autograph letter, signed; Isaac and Amy Post Family Papers, University of Rochester Library.)

Presenting… A New Found Land

In this writing, Hariot basically narrates everything he see’s in the new land. He is trying to communicate to the people of England who can’t see it, what it is like, and actually gets fairly detailed in some of his descriptions. It is obvious that Thomas Hariot was somewhat of a scientist (mathematician/astronomer) because of his writing style. He is very particular about what he sees and is almost as if he’s doing an experiment, and writing down every detail of the experiment to explain exactly everything.


He first tells about how the natives appear to him. He explains that their “odd” clothing of deer skins only covers the minimum and that they have very different standards of England. He also writes of primitive weapons of witch hazel bows, sharpened reeds for arrows, and tree bark as shields. He also learns that their battle tactics are more of guerilla warfare. But thinks that if there were to be a battle that broke out between them, Hariot and his men would have no problem defeating them because of the modern weapons and experience.
Hariot is confused on why their towns (villages) are so small. He is puzzled why the largest town he’s seen had only 30 homes and every town is near the seacoast. He goes on to explain how their homes are built with just sticks, animal skins, and mud. He also writes of their form of government, which is just a wiroans or chief lord. With its descriptions of the region’s flora and fauna, along with the Native Americans who lived there, A briefe and true report came to be one of the most important texts produced in relation to the beginnings of English settlement in the Americas. The de Bry editions included engravings of images by JohnWhite, who had accompanied Hariot and the 600 other colonists. Together, Hariot’s text and White’s images played a crucial role in encouraging English investors to continue their colonial endeavors in the New World, and thus led directly to the beginnings of English Settlement in Virginia.

Hariot’s writings, in partnership with White’s delicate but vivid watercolor paintings, depict numerous aspects of the Indians’ lives and culture, including their bodies and clothing; their diets: the layouts of their homes and towns; their religious practices; their methods of agriculture, fishing, hunting, and boat-building; and the way in which they waged war upon their enemies. Taken in combination, Hariot’s words and White’s images presented the New World as simultaneously exotic and reassuring to English readers. Virginia, in their description, was a land of lush vegetation and amicable natives, and thus was an ideal site for continued efforts at colonization, despite this initial effort’s lack of success.

Garden of Eden

In A Briefe and True Report of the New Found Land of Virginia by Thomas Harriot, he portrays this new found land as one flowing with milk and honey. He lists valuable resources in which he knows will impress the European viewers. He makes it sound as if there are so many fruit bearing trees and so many fish in the sea that it would be impossible to starve. He fails to mention that these items may not last long, especially in the winter months. He create a lists of essential items of everyday use, but also makes it clear that he needs people to come to the new world in order to do their duty as citizens and help out with the construction of  the land. Why stay on dumb dreary OLD land, when you can leave everything behind and come to the NEW land of Virginia. This land can be put in relation to The Garden of Eden; a land with no cares in the world, and one that provides you with ample supplies for survival. Similarly, in biblical terms, Hariot is attempting to lead ‘his’ people of England to the new, better land he has founded. He realizes the Europeans with nothing are struggling and would like to bring them to peace. Hariot may think of himself a the ‘Moses’ of the the new land. He has been carefully selected to give people a chance at better lives by following him to the ‘Promised Land’.  The only problem with this, is that  the land was already inhabited.

This form of promotion, therefore, emerged as one of the most effective ways of convincing wary investors of the significant financial potential of England’s fledgling colonial enterprises. Although the particular advantages of colonial investment changed over the next century, the central structural fact of English colonialism did not: England’s colonies would remain dependent on periodic infusions of capital from England well into the seventeenth century. And as long as that was the case, the promotion, of which A Briefe and True Report is the prototype, remained a staple of the English publishing and book selling trades. When looking at “A Briefe and True Report” as a promotion it is easier to imagine Hariot as an entrepreneur, and a good one at that. He sells this land to the reader as one that can not be passed up.


While Harriot devotes most of his text to the considerable number of “merchantable commodities” to be found in Virginia—commodities ranging from luxury items, such as furs and pearls, to strategically significant materials, such as timber and iron—he also spends a considerable amount of time describing the ease with which the land in the New World could be farmed. In these parts of his text, Harriot reminds us that the colonial enterprise was not exclusively an investment opportunity for the very rich, who would reap profits from the importation of valuable raw materials. In addition to serving as sources for these materials, the colonies, in Harriot’s vision, would also be places where the younger sons of the gentry might live and prosper and where idle English laborers, displaced by enclosures, might make themselves productive members of a new society. For this other group of people, who were interested in investing not their capital but rather their labor in the colonial enterprise, the agricultural potential of the land was of primary interest. Moreover, Harriot’s depiction of the colonial geography as conducive to the family-oriented enterprise of farming might have been intended to allay widespread English fears that colonies might become sites of licentious and criminal behavior.


Harriot, accordingly, attempts to reassure potential investors that the English settlers will be able to convince the Virginia natives to submit to their rule.. It was, in all likelihood, the harsh treatment of the natives by the English that led to the mysterious disappearance of the English settlers on Roanoke Island not long after the initial publication of Harriot’s text. Hence, although Harriot’s pamphlet may have exerted an enduring influence on colonial writing, its influence was probably undermined by the immediate perception of colonialism as a risky activity.



Although he does not appeal to people who have “everything”. He appeals to people without families, without jobs, or without inheritance. These are the people that do not mind traveling across the world for a shot at a better life. “Better land, better lives.” This is important because not only is Hariot trying to bring people to another life, he needs this for his own shot of a new life. Here, in the new land, Hariot would be seen as a Founding Father and his popularity would increase his status even further. Even though his life was pretty well in England, one can be sure he had thoughts of profound popularity.  This is why survival had to be the main persuasion in getting people to move to the new land. People are not going to risk their lives on a land where no life is to be maintained. Within the photo above, we see Natives cooking their daily catch over a fire, a way Europeans could relate to around this time, as they coked their fish similarly.  Some photos by John White are made to ease the readers mind of how different this world may be because of the previous owners. By portraying the Natives as “just like you and me” it creates comfort and confidence that this New World is everything and more.



This picture entitled The arrival of the Englishmen in Virginia is one that stood out to me because the first thing I think about (with the view of an on looking European) is that the Englishmen must have gone through so much strife while founding this land. The image depicts oncoming ships as well as ships that are sinking. This makes the notion that there must have been some type of struggle while trying to acquire the land. What happened? Why have the ships been wrecked? Or is this simply a device used to appeal themselves to the audience as people who built the land as hard workers, or use it as guilt because they have gone through so much to acquire the land so it would be selfish of them to stay where they are, in a land that already has so much.

There is some type of giant creature located within the text. The only water animal that giant that I can think of that looks similar to that is a whale. Either they had never seen a whale before, or they are over-exaggerating the picture as some type of grotesque creature that terrorized the land before they claimed it as theirs. It puts one in the mind of a fairy tale dragon and palace situation, because one must defeat the dragon before claiming the princess(the land).  Truly, there indeed were savage “animals” terrorizing the land before they claimed it as theirs; The “Native” Americans. Even though they describe the Indians as a primitive people, in the back or their minds, they think of them as savage creatures that must be dealt with. There is exaggeration throughout the picture. This exaggeration works because it makes the Englishmen who helped discover the land seem nobler. If one must struggle in acquiring something, it makes that “something”, in this case land, easier to appreciate. In a way it is understandable because this is the way one would conduct business nowadays as any type of salesman. You tell the audience what they want to hear, whether it is true, false, or simply amplified for personal gain.



Mother of “free” schools


In many female slave narratives we witness the harsh abuse that the women forcefully endured.  The beatings, rapes, barring children of their slave master, torment, deceit, trickery, etc.  However, in many instances of female fugitive slave narratives, we come to find that the abused slave woman becomes a free individual who devotes their life to helping others.

“From Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl” is a text based of the truth life story of Harriet Ann Jacobs.  A free woman who was once a slave tormented and abused by her slave master.  In the narrative Jacobs explains her entire life as a slave.  She speaks of the obsession and ongoing rape by her slave master.  The reader learns that she bore children and because of her escape from her masters home could not have any contact with them though she was living in the same house with them.  She hid in a crawl space beneath the roof of her grandmother’s house.  She lived in that space for 7 years.  Jacobs headed north where she eventually became a free woman along with her children.  “We are as free from the power of slaveholders as are the white people of the north; and though that, according to my ideas, is not saying a great deal, it is a vast improvement in my condition.”

When taught about literature of these women in many cases all we are aware of is their slave narrative.  But there is so much more than the lives of their slave past.

Jacobs became an abolitionist, speaker, reformer, she founded a schools, she returned back to Savannah to do relief work to help fugitive and freed men and women.  In the “Documenting the American South” page you can research Harriet Jacobs and find various resources and documentation of her work as an abolitionist.

It is always an admiring site to see women with pasts like Jacobs become the strong activists of history.

Author Harriet Jacobs is known for her biography, “Incidents in the life of a slave girl” where she is in bondage throughout the entire novel until the final chapter.  Though Jacobs was indeed a slave most of her life, once freedom was gained, she became a great and famous woman of African American history. With the encouragement of her brother and other members of the abolitionist movement she converted to activism.

Jacob’s new life as a free woman gave her opportunity to discover her new destiny.  This ‘new life’ encouraged her to help other gains freedom and knowledge.

Family Papers is a collection of written letters by Harriet Jacobs and fellow activists regarding their relief work with the refugees, during the civil war, who were arriving to the north in abundance.  Letter writing during this time was the public form or correspondence.  This is how Jacobs and her associates kept in contact with one another whether it be personal or work related.

What I also discovered is that this collection is all about her life as a free woman.  Family Papers is post slavery for Jacobs.  The argument can be me that had she not took it upon herself to escape to the north that there would have been so such things as the free school culture.

In the 1860’s shortly after the passing of the 1863 emancipation proclamation numerous fugitive slaves escaped to the north.  Jacobs and other refugee workers sought shelter and built refugee camps for escapees.  While working in these camps Jacobs considered the children.  Having the background of a former slave herself, Jacobs was well aware that these children needed to be educated.  She did not want the absence of education to hinder the children and other freemen who were interested in academics.  Thus is the birthing of the concept of “free schools.”

These, free schools also known as “Jacob free schools” were for ‘freedmen’ or free slaves in general.  In these schools children were taught a standard curriculum and other necessary standards for living as an American and African American, which W.E.B. Dubois termed later as the double consciousness.  “It is pleasant to see that eager group of old and young striving to learn their A, B, C…They need to be taught the right habits of living and the true principles of life” (405).  Schools were opened up in Washington and Virginia.

Harriet Jacobs is the mother of free schools.  Throughout post Jacob free schools many historical events have evolved the concept of free schools for blacks.  One specific affair is the 1964 Freedom Summer Project.  Freedom Summer was a civil rights initiative to register African Americans in Mississippi to vote.  Over one thousand College students from different parts of the country volunteered in the project.  One effort was to recreate freedom schools.


Just like free schools, the Freedom School’s curriculum focused on a basic educational and leadership skills, so that the children could maintain the movement once their generation became of age.

When reading Harriet Jacobs biography I saw her genius unmask.  In various moments of Incidents the reader is informed of how strategic and determined Jacobs is.  Dressing up like a sailor and smearing her face with coal so no one could recognize her.  Hiding in a crawl space of her grandmother’s house, enduring the elements and suffering maternally; just to ensure her freedom and progression as a free woman.


Likewise Jacob’s shows the same tenacity in the development of the freedmen with the insurance of educating the masses.  The “free schools” were built by the freedmen.  The earnings they received went into financing the schools.  Jacob’s sought out finances from friends and associates to help with expenses.  Coalitions such as New England Freedmen’s Aid Society, Mary Chase, Executive Board of Friends Association, American Tract Society and local residences contributed to the schools.  Documentation of these contributions were kept to ensure security for legal matters.

Jacobs also strategized the influence of teaching the children by acquiring black teachers.  “I do not object to white teachers but I think it has a good effect upon these people to convince them their own race can do something for their elevation.  It inspires them with confidence to help each other.”  Jacobs felt also that by having black teachers, the children could have positive role models.  One thing I found extremely encouraging and brilliant was that they referred to the students as “scholars.”  Though the words scholar and student carry the same significance, when hearing the term scholar used to describe a pupil the assumption is that he/she is a gifted individual.  In some of her letters Jacobs brags on the students about how quickly they catch on and counteracts the notion that blacks are not fit to be educated, but only to labor.  There is no advancement to their knowledge other than knowing how to harvest the land.  Using the term scholar when speaking of students frequently gives those individuals confidence and a belief that he/she is gifted.  “…we have two hundred and twenty five scholars…When I look at these bright little boys, I often wonder whether there is not some Frederick Douglas among them, destined to do honor to his race in the future.”

Jacobs was a great influence to those around her.  The children drew to her and her passion for educating and developing the African American.  In various letters, when referencing Jacobs the description of her is always grateful and knowledgeable of the great presence and influence she has on individuals who come in contact with her.  Her daughter, Linda Jacobs, recognized the passion her mother possessed and was inspired to get her education in teaching and join her mother in the progression of the black nation

Thanks to Harriet Jacobs Free/Freedom schools still exist today.  There is a national organization known as the Children Defense Fund where they have Freedom School programs active in over a hundred cities in the U.S.  The coalition between being a free woman and free schools is freedom.  Once Jacob’s freedom was gained she thrived as an activist and educator, leaving the past where it is supposed to be: behind her.

Yellin, Jean Fagan. The Harriet Jacobs Family Papers. Vol. 1-2.  Chapel Hill: The University of

North Carolina Press, 2008. Print.

Examining Loneliness in Dickinson’s 656

While Dickinson is largely known for the eccentricities and morbid themes in terms of her prose, there is an underlying feeling of loneliness hidden within the words she manipulates.

dickinson 656

“Poem 656” has an innocent and fantastical premise. The overall theme appears to be that of a cheerful fantasy of visiting strange places. However, that contrasts starkly with the general modern consensus of how Dickinson spent her life. Numerous sources have supported the idea that she rarely left her house and only did so for an extended period for medical reasons. Hence, this has led to her, possibly out of loneliness, using her imagination as a means of escape from daily life. The opening stanza places her taking her dog to the sea to visit with mermaids, oddly located in her basement. The fact that she takes nothing but her dog and her focus is the sea itself shows that she is yearning for the natural world around her. Meanwhile it specifically states that the mermaids came to look at her, showing a sort of social divide in that she herself is not seeking out beings, but they choose to observe her from a distance. This sense of a social divide or sense of loneliness is reinforced in line 5-8 where it states that the ships viewed her to be a mouse, reinforcing the idea that she herself is inconsequential in the scheme of things.

Over the course of the second and third stanzas Dickinson describes how man was unable to move her, this could be taken literally, she was physically fixed in place in her world of imagination, or man was unable to move her emotionally. She then describes a process detailing her being engulfed by the sea, past her bodice, insinuating that it was beginning to take hold of her heart. This could be taken in three ways: the first being that the sea symbolizes loneliness engulfing her, the second being that it is depression overtaking her, and the third being that it is her imagination surrounding her with nature. The initial two theories are supported by the fact that she begins to flee the sea, which then pursues her until they reach a town, after which it quite literally bows out. This could be interpreted as the town chasing away any semblance of loneliness.

Loneliness seems to be an ever-present topic in Dickinson’s works, from the infamous “I heard a Fly buzz – when I died –” to the more innocuous poems such as “656.”

The Two Faces of Emily Dickinson

Emily_Dickinson_1 Emily Dickinson’s poetry has been broken into five categories, which consist of life, nature, love, time and eternity, and the single hound.  In comparing the images of Emily Dickinson, I’m began to believe her photographs reflect the type of poetry she wrote during a specific time period. Studying the picture of  young  Emily, I notice the stern expression on her face. She appears to be a serious young woman, who takes pride in her work. With titles such as “genius” and “prodigy” used to describe her, the young girl probably strove to prove herself by writing material that spoke of her intelligence, while dismissing light, entertaining tones in her material.

Emily arms in the picture are places close to her body, which says she is maybe reserved and keeps to herself. The poetry written during this time in her life was probably more about matters dealing with nature, instead, say love, because to have a good understanding of love requires the involvement of more than one person.

Emily Dickinson 2 However, in comparison to the young Emily Dickinson, the older one appears more open. The slight incline of her lips translate to an onlooker that she is smiling. Smiling indicates happiness, which could possible be translated in her poetry. During this point in her life that this picture was taken, her poetry maybe centered around “life” as opposed to “death.”

The openness of her arms represent receptivity in herself. This could be the time period in which she wrote about love. Love takes more than one  person and having the other person in the the image shows she had some knowledge on the subject. The young Emily Dickinson possible wrote isolated, heavy poems, while the older Emily Dickinson added a tone of lightness and love to her poetry.

Office Space and Paperwork


In continuning our class discussion, I would like to expand on the Office space/Paperwork category we discussed in our groups when going over Herman Melville’s “Bartleby, the Scrivener.” Bartleby’s office space in the short story is described as a corner with a single window and a desk. Bartleby’s “office” was a very intimate space, because of its tiny circumference and the fact that it was designed specifically for him and only him. A connection between Bartleby and his office space has been formed. That space belongs to him and whatever he brings into his space, whether temporary or permanent, he believes also belongs to him such as when a 12-year-old is given a game system and they keep it in their room. Niether the room nor the game system belongs to the 12-year-old, because it is ultimatley their parents property, but in the 12-year-olds mind, it’s theirs. The same concept applies to Bartleby, so when he’s given material to copy and it enters his office space, he deems it his. After having the paperwork in his space, using his time to create a brand new copy by hand and then being forced to give it to his boss, so he can give it away or file it away, this process causes Bartleby to slowly shut down. The paperwork he’s created a connection to is suddenly not his anymore and he will never be able to call it his own.   Bartleby beings to think what is the point in doing anything if the material he creates, deems his and form a bond with can be so easily snatched away. Judging by his job, Bartleby probably doesn’t have much money or many possessions, so without much or anything to strictly call his own, it creates a feeling of worthlessness. If he cannot even call this insignificant copy his own, then what can he claim. A desolate, worthless feeling overwhelms Bartleby until he gives up on everything, because nothing is this world will truly be his own. The Office Space/ Paperwork category points out how important property is to man.

The Power of the Nipper

In Barltleby The  Scrivener, there is a lovely host of secondary characters who populate the law office. One of them is Nippers, the peculiarly foul-tempered morning man with a penchant for perfect placed desks. Nippers on the whole seems a dispensable character but he does serve a very important purpose: Nippers helps provide a prodding for the narrator to begin acting with his abundant “charity”.

When Bartleby first begins to voice his quiet preferences, Nippers instantly tells the Narrator that he would kick Bartleby out of the office for talking like that. The Narrator is seeking out allies in his anger against Bartleby’s peculiar responses. However, when he receives this vindictive reply, he immediately adds in the story “Nippers’s ugly mood was on duty” (1110). The Narrator, instead of using this statement as fuel for his outrage, quietly explains it away before moving on with his story and not properly addressing Bartleby’s response.

Later on, when Bartleby refuses to work again, Nippers specifically is mentioned again by name. This time, he is grumbling again about Bartleby right outside his office. In his contrary way, Nippers is specifically trying to get a rise from Bartleby. But the Narrator rushes to Bartleby’s aid with a quiet “Mr. Nippers, … I’d prefer that you would withdraw for the present” (1116). With Nippers there trying to goad Bartleby into action, the Narrator is instantly moved instead to compassion for Bartleby. The fact that the Narrator had a character out for Bartleby’s head gave him a more sympathetic viewpoint. Who doesn’t feel sorry for someone that has done you some kind of wrong the moment that person is exposed and attacked by another person? It’s similar to how siblings relate to each other. You can be mad at them all day long and tease them over the smallest thing, but the moment someone else tries it on them, God forbid they do it in your hearing. The Narrator can be seen as having developed an almost familial need to protect Bartleby because he had his employee egging on reactions. If it hadn’t been for Nippers and his surly morning attitude, Bartleby might never have enjoyed as much leniency as he did from the hands of the Narrator.

Whitman’s Constant Revision

Any dedicated writer will tell you what the most laborious part of the process is: revision. Even if these revisions do not take place on paper, they still go on in the writer’s head. Maybe the first time the writer’s pen touches the paper, he knows exactly what he wants to say…but that doesn’t mean he didn’t go over it countless times in his head.Page 72 of Notebook LC #80

Walt Whitman never stopped revising. Before even looking at his old manuscripts, this is apparent because of how many different editions he published of Leaves of Grass. He published six different versions, plus one christened the “deathbed edition” of the collection of poetry, with constant rearranging and tweaking of the poems.

Whitman put a lot of care into his work, but was it for himself or for the people he was trying to impress? His work was sadly not widely celebrated when it was first released, so perhaps he continued to make public changes in an effort to keep people rereading it.

But you cannot ignore his manuscripts, which can be viewed on the Library of Congress website. The pages of his notebooks are covered with scribbles, scratches, and tiny notes in the margins as he gets all of his thoughts in order

Page 14 of Notebook LC #86

Page 14 of Notebook LC #86

and his writing just right. In some cases, he crossed out entire pages to be rewritten.

Whitman continued to edit and revise right up to his death, proving that an artist’s job is never finished. The 1891-92 edition, sometimes also called the ninth edition, of Leaves of Grass is often called the “deathbed edition,” although this is not strictly true. This version contained only minor details and corrections, and was completed before Whitman even contracted the illness that led to his death. Nevertheless, the romantic idea of Whitman pouring over his work while deathly ill is hard to ignore.

The manuscripts and history of Leaves of Grass shows us how important Whitman’s work was to him and how much effort he put into even after it had been published several times. His devotion and passion for it makes it all the more interesting to read, and it makes me appreciate every word because of the care that has gone into it.

Dickinson’s Careful Haste

Despite the meticulous nature of Emily Dickinson’s poems, one look at her manuscripts shows a different side to her. In one of her poems, A Cloud withdrew from the Sky, the style of her writing shows a rushed and hasty script that is almost illegible. The soft looping letters are beautiful especially by today’s standards where many people’s handwriting has begun to degrade due to the overuse of technology. But Emily Dickinson’s handwriting gives a lot of hints as to who she was outside of her poetry. For example, all of her writing is bent at a quick slant, much the way our lettering looks when italicized. When we italicize words or sentences, our purpose is to make the writing stand out, or to add emphasis to that particular section. However, Dickinson appears to write with her pen permanently looping to the side. The point of emphasizing the writing seems not to have the same reasons as we might have. Instead, her penmanship suggests haste, not emphasis. And yet, she had to write with such a sure and steady hand in order to produce such new and yet perfect poems that it boggles the mind. The fact that a person could simoulatneously be so neat and precise but write in a way that suggests such haste implies that Dickinson had two needs when she wrote. Not only did she feel the need to write it down immediately, but she wanted it to be clear. When I think of it that way, I’m reminded of when I have to just write out something. It could be any idea in my head, a sketch, or a poem, but I’ll just write it out as fast as I can and like Dickinson’s poems, my writing has a slant to it. The suggestion of her having to write incredibly fast implies that Dickinson felt the need to get her poems out as fast as possible. However she wrote it so neatly, it was obviously something that she would have wanted to return to. Even though Dickinson only published a handful of poems, she must have liked her poems enough to want to keep clean enough to read. The slant of Dickinson’s writing must certainly suggests that she, like myself, wanted to get what was in her head out into reality.

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