In “Caloya” William Gilmore Simms writes and gives the reader a view of slaves, making them to be rebellious and disobedient toward their owners, whereas in Kindred by Octavia E. Butler, slaves are very timid and afraid to go against their masters’ wishes. The “Caloya” writing tries to influence the reader that slavery is acceptable and right, while Kindred shows the inhumane acts being done to the slaves. In each story slaves are depicted differently, but each story is similar in few unique ways. The stories take place in the 19th century; a historical time for the United States. Each writing sways the reader to feel a certain way towards slaves, also showing both sides of slavery; a white man’s perspective and a black woman’s perspective. The book, Kindred, portrays the white man as being evil and cruel, showing how much the slaves struggled because of the white man’s acts making them the victims of that era in American history. In “Caloya”, Simms delineates slaves as being aggressive and defiant. Although, the writings have major differences they are also alike in simple ways. The protagonist in each story is an African-American living in a time where they were seen as less and had duties to fulfill. Another similarity within the stories is that each story is focused to coax the reader into believing or seeing things as the protagonist of the story does. Each author puts their beliefs into the story through the characters they write about in hopes that the reader has a new idea about the topic of slavery.
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Butler’s Kindred focuses on the issues and egregious problems faced by the African-American community through the protagonist, Dana. Dana is unexplainably sent back in time to the early 1815s to save her ancestor, a slave owner. Through her journeys back in time she encounters the same adversities that slaves had to overcome during that time. Simms’ “Caloya” similarly corroborates the duties slaves had to fulfill during those times, but unlike Butler, Simms’ views sentiment toward slavery is different. In “Caloya”, Mingo is the protagonist of the story, he is the driver of the plantation, giving him power and not struggling as much as a fieldworker. These stories emphasize both sides of slavery; the slaves and slave owners. Each text is relevant even today because slavery is American history that has impacted society and shaped it into what it is today. At various points in the text, Dana, is sent back to save Rufus a white slave owner and her ancestor. As she saves his life multiple times throughout the story, Dana realizes early on that the color of her skin determines the amount of respect she is to give and receive. As Dana goes to save Rufus a second time she is baffled by the fact that she is to address him as master, “I surprised myself by laughing. ‘Master?’ ‘You’re supposed to.’ He was very serious. ‘You want me to call you black?’”. All through the novel Dana is victimized and disrespected in multiple occasions, this is Butler’s way of displaying the cruelty of the white man toward the slaves. Later in the story Dana is brought back to save Rufus again, as she awaits until she is sent back home to 1976, Dana encounters being punished for teaching other slave children to read. “I said good-bye to Rufus the day my teaching finally did get me in trouble”.
Butler used education to help describe the gentleness of slaves. The enslaved children searched for an education to free their minds from the brutality they came across as a slave by reading while they remained on the plantation, but also to potentially become free. The thirst for an education helped make the slaves appear to be innocent, “Carrie nodded. She wanted to learn all right”. The slaves became accustomed to knowing that an education or simply being able to read was nearly impossible, as Dana describes with a slave’s reaction about African-Americans writing books, “’Foolishness!’ she said. ‘Niggers writing books!’”. An education was a powerful tool that the slaves wanted to garner, but were not given the right to have during the 19th century. Dana is very independent and strong-willed at the beginning of the novel, but she eventually starts to play the role of a slave after being sent back to help Rufus many times. As time goes by Dana begins to adjust to the differences and she becomes timid and careful with her behavior, “I was careful. As the days passed, I got into the habit of being careful. I played the slave, minded my manners probably more than I had to because I wasn’t sure what I could get away with”.
Dana travels back to the early 19th century and each time she learns more about the complexity of being a slave, whether it’s through her own experiences or watching the other slaves on the plantation. The readers have a chance to analyze the past through the experiences of the main character. For example, one of the characters is a black woman Sarah who works as a cook on the plantation. Dana describes Sarah’s behavior, “She had done the safe thing — had accepted a life of slavery because she was afraid”. Dana overheard a slave give advice to another slave as well, “’Don’t argue with white folks,’ he had said. ‘Don’t tell them ‘no.’ Don’t let them see you mad. Just say ‘yes, sir.’ Then go ‘head and do what you want to do’”. Slavery had become naturalized for everyone during that time period that even enslaved children played as if they were slave-holders auctioning slaves off, “’Let the folks see you.’ He drew the girl beside him. ‘She young and strong,’ he continued. ‘She worth plenty money. Two hundred dollars. Who bid two hundred dollars?’”. Butler uses the children and their innocence to help convey the corruption and manipulation of slavery in American history.
The attitude toward slaves in the “Caloya” text is contrary to Butler’s writing. In “Caloya” Mingo, the protagonist, is portrayed as an aggressive and lustful man. Since Mingo is the driver of the plantation giving him power over other slaves, which he then abuses. Mingo falls in love with a Native-American women, Caloya. Caloya is married to Richard Knuckles, Mingo then tries to compete with Knuckles to win Caloya. Mingo is not used to having to compete because on the plantation he takes advantage of the women because he has power over them as the driver. Mingo is very confident and sees no challenge when it came to getting a woman to bow down to him, “His success with the favored was such as to fill him with a singular degree of confidence in his own prowess and personal attractions. Mingo knew that he was a handsome fellow, and fancied a great deal more”. Simms, like Butler, spoke his beliefs through the actions of the main character in his writings. The propaganda that was instilled to sway the reader into seeing slaves as a threat was Simms main goal. Throughout the text Mingo abuses his power which then leads to him believing he had more power than he did, “With Mingo, as with most such, it was my horse, my land, my ox, and my ass, and all that is mine”.
To emphasize the negativity of slaves in the story, Simms describes the white plantation owner, Colonel Gillison, as a kind and caring individual. Colonel Gillison has to eventually clean up after Mingo. As the “aggressive” slave Mingo is, he destroys Caloya’s and Knuckle’s pots out of fury because Caloya did not give him the attention he believed he would receive, “These, with foot and fist, Mingo demolished, trampling, with the ingenious pains-taking of a willful boy, the yet unhardened vases out of all shape and character into the earth on which they rested”. As Caloya became aware of what Mingo did to the pots and pans, she felt comfortable going to Colonel Gillison, this making the white man approachable. Even after Mingo, a black man under the authority of a white man in the 19th century, Gillison would still approach Mingo in a way that did not affect the reputation of the white man that Simms had set in the text, “’But you and your husband surely mean not to murder the fellow, my good woman?’ He has done wrong and I will have him punished; but you must not think to use knife and hatchet upon him’”.
Throughout the whole text, Mingo’s actions give the reader reasons to believe that African-Americans did not deserve to receive any type of power. Both, Kindred and “Caloya” voice the beliefs of the author through the main characters. Each text resembles a historical narrative about slavery in America. The readers are shown the different ways that slavery was seen in the 19th century.
Each writing concludes that slavery is history that has impacted society, helping shape the way it is today. The stories demonstrate that the history of slavery didn’t impact only African-Americans, but all Americans. Each belief about the topic is derived from the personal family history during one of America’s darkest times.
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