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Free The White Color as a Symbol of Racism in Edgar Poe's Works Essay Sample

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The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket written by Edgar Poe has a loose structure and is divided into two unequal parts. The first part describes quite plausible events and the second part describes fantastic events. The story is written in the form of quite genuine notes of a young resident of Nantucket, named Arthur Gordon Pym, who traveled to the South Seas. Poe's novel is more than a simple adventure; also, it has connection with the historical issues of the moment, i.e. racial insurrection, colonial expansion, and Antarctica’s exploration. All these topics find their symbolic display in the white color in the novel.

The analysis of the text proves that the white color creates fear among residents of Tsalala, inhabited by black natives of the island close to Antarctica. The white color is a source of horror that the black aborigines feel. The last page describes Pim's misadventures. “The darkness had materially increased, relieved only by the glare of the water thrown back from the white curtain before us. Many gigantic and pallidly white birds flew continuously now from beyond the veil, and their scream was the eternal Tekeli-li! as they retreated from our vision” (Poe 709). This incident will result in death of one of residents, named Nu-Nu. Horrible cry of birds acts as an omen for the tribe whenever they are very close to the white color and its powerful influence. Such birds are s of God; it is possible to think of their role in the biblical story about Noah. They foreshadow the ultimate horror of the aboriginal if the White Giant comes.

The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket

Thus, the white color is a symbol of terror, and, therefore, secret. The white color is important for moral and social views of the author. It is a struggle between black and white, presented in The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym of Nantucket; it is a manifestation of racist attitudes. How do racial ideas influence the structure of the story? They influence it very much. The ship that saves Pym and his companions depicts an esoteric way to the white color and the symbol of purity. The closer the sailors are to the south the greater force of the white color and its mystery affects them. The closer to Antarctica Pym is the more he feels the changes happening to him. In this initiatory journey, it is impossible to avoid dangers and difficulties. Bloodthirsty battle, in which men have fallen to the hands of angry birds, proves that following this path means that travelers should be ready to face a mortal threat.

By analyzing racist views, we are approaching the White Continent as a sign of death and sufferings. As soon as the traveler approaches the pole center, he experiences an increase in temperature. It could be because he is closer to the center or because the hostile forces of nature use their power over him. Although this fact may seem insufficiently scientifically accurate, truth is that Poe was not so far from what can feel an explorer of Antarctica. As an example, we can mention a curious phenomenon called “Antarctic oasis” where the water reaches a temperature much higher than the rest of the Antarctic waters. Could Edgar Allan Poe know about this phenomenon?

There is one more thing, which is important to say about Poe and his position against blacks. It is believed that his passion for literature comes from horror stories of slaves, which he listened in the kitchen of his house when he was a kid. This fear inspired him to show Negro servants of his guardian and tell of ghosts residing in their mouths. These stories are reflected in his literary style, rhythm, complex and rich hues, which, in a certain way, imitated chants of slaves. 

Works Cited

  1. Huntress, Keith.  “Another Source for Poe's Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym”. American Literature 16.1 (1944): 19-25. Web.
  2. Tynan, Daniel “J. N. Reynold's Voyage of the Potomac: Another Source for the Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym”. Poe Studies IV.2 (1971): 35-37. Web.
  3. Poe Edgar A. The Collected Tales and Poems. UK: Wordsworth Editions Ltd, 2004. Print.

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