Analysis Of Phillis Wheatly’s Poem On Being Brought From Africa To America

Captured in Africa, a young girl named Phillis Wheatley was brought to America as a slave. Being sold to a wealthy family they noticed that she was not an ordinary slave. Phillis Wheatly was intelligent and the family took an unusual turn into teaching her how to read and write. Wheatly was exposed to the Bible and classic literature. Thus, began to write poetry relating to her about slavery and how African Americans are discriminated. In Wheatly’s poem, “On Being Brought from Africa to America”, she introduces religion and identity over the course of the poem that creates parts that connect to a particular event being mentioned in the poem. Wheatly’s structure, rhyme, and diction in the poem produce a complex account on how religion and identity develop in the poem.

The way that Wheatley decides to structure the poem, helps create a stronger message. In order to do so, she separates the poem into different points of view to cater it towards her audience. Wheatly uses first person in her poem to tell her story; which allows the audience to view how Wheatley thinks and experiences the events in her life. Also, it helps the audience to see how the events of Wheatly helped her overcome conflict she faces in the poem. For example, 'Twas mercy brought me from my Pagan land, Taught my benighted soul to understand'. First person words like ‘me’ and ‘my’ demonstrate how Wheatly came from a place that had no knowledge of God and how being captured taught her to understand more where her place was in the world. In addition, she uses third person as well in the poem to describe ‘Some’ people other than herself. Moreover, Wheatly is being imperative, giving commands in her poem. For instance, “Remember, Christians, Neogros… May be refin’d, and join the' angelic train”. Wheatly uses forceful language to give the audience a moral lesson that if they consider themselves good ‘Christians’ they must remember that Africans can also be educated and spiritual as well.

Furthermore, the rhyme and meter in the poem is written in iambic pentameter, which means that each line has exactly ten syllables, with a stress on every other syllable. Then, there is a rhyme scheme being portrayed in the poem. If readers pay close attention to the last words in the lines they sound alike. With this in mind, in lines seven through eight Wheatly links the words like ‘Cain’ and ‘train’. In the bible Cain was a character who murdered his brother, causing him to be evil. Wheatly draws a connection between ‘angelic train’ and ‘Cain’ because she is setting up an idea, that maybe what appears evil may be in fact worthy to join heaven.

Similarly, the emotional diction being used in this poem brings a deep feeling to the reader. It enables the readers to really comprehend what Wheatly is trying to explain her poem. Her word choice in the beginning of the poem automatically tells the readers she is a slave, and it was ‘mercy’ that converted her into Christian. Wheatly also uses phrases like, “scornful eye” and “diabolic dye” to iluu states that people dislike African Americans. They viewed the color of their skin to be evil. In the poem from line four through eight, Wheatly explains that once she had been converted she believed that she had redeemed herself and that her faith was not to discriminate against African Americans. Also in the poem there are some words that are italizcesd meaning that Whealty creates a conncetion bewtten the words chosen, “Christians’ and ‘Negros’, this empahsizes the Christian message of equality bewteen both races.

After all, Wheatly careful use of structure, rhyme, and diction help point out the injustices she faces. Wheatly creates a different identity for herself and for other African Amricans that they don’t have to be the way others identify them. That with God they are able to still go to heaven.  

16 December 2021
Your Email

By clicking “Send”, you agree to our Terms of service and  Privacy statement. We will occasionally send you account related emails.

close thanks-icon

Your essay sample has been sent.

Order now
Still can’t find what you need?

Order custom paper and save your time
for priority classes!

Order paper now