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Middle Passage Johnson

In Charles Johnson’s Middle Passage, we are treated to a work that is half slave-narrative and half seafaring-adventure. The African holocaust as it exists in literature originally came into being from oral reports and slave narratives from slaves who had learned to read and write. Thus, many slave narratives give readers a firsthand but detached account of not the slave but of the slavery institution instead. Detached and observational in account, works devoted to the African holocaust in the late 19th and early 20th centuries horrified and titillated readers with accounts of abominable cruelties inflicted on slaves at the hands of cruel and abusive white slave owners. However, modern works that convey experiences of the African holocaust do not allow the reader any such detached perspective. Instead, works by Toni Morrison and Charles Johnson involve us in a relationship with the individual slave, a perspective we are drawn into by the use of fragmented stream of consciousness and other techniques commonly associated with the style known as magical realism. In this way, authors like Johnson attempt to bridge the gap between the reader and the individual slave experience as presented, i.e., brought into existence, via text.

The institution of slavery is defamiliarized in Middle Passage. Instead the authority of the story is bestowed upon its narrator, a modern day Huck Finn kind of character who is black and educated. Using wit and wisdom, Johnson gives us the story of Rutherford Calhoun, a newly freed slave and quite the rogue. In an effort to escape his considerable debts and a dreaded marriage to a plain schoolteacher, Calhoun hops aboard the Republic, a clipper ship. What the freed slave living in New Orleans in 1830 does not realize is that the Republic is a salve ship heading for Africa. In the dangerous, graphic, and humorous episodes and adventures that follow, the author attempts to transcend race by giving us...

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Middle Passage Johnson. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 16:15, August 03, 2020, from