Comestible Commodities

It is interesting the way Mary Prince describes her treatment as a slave in terms of how animals are treated.  Animals that are meant to be eaten.  She speaks of the way in which families are torn apart and separated. “Oh the Buckra people who keep slaves think that black people are like cattle, without natural affection.” (pg. 14) And yet, it is these very people that provide the nutrients and nourishment for these slave owners both by nursing their children, and careing for the livestock.  However, just as these food items are bought and sold, so to were the slaves sold as nothing more than commodities. ” At length the vendue master, who was to offer us for sale like sheep or cattle, arrived”. “I was soon surrounded by strange men, who examined and handled me in the same manner that a butcher would a calf or a lamb he was about to purchase, and who talked about my shape and size in like words-as if I could no more understand their meaning than the dumb easts”. (pg. 7)

Through the act of slavery, the slave owners breed, consume, digest, and excrete the slave.  We see the slave owners use the slaves to an extent that renderes them maimed and we see the way in which their lives are so easily terminated for the smallest infractions, real or imagined. Their humanity, like their clothing is stripped away when they are flogged, it didn’t matter if the slave was male, female, or even just children.  All were treated with the same disregard.  They were viewed as mere commodoties that were purchased to be used as the slave owner pleased.  And once they had been used up, broken, or died, they were nothing more than a commodity that was easily replaced.

It is interesting to look at the differences between Equiano’s experience as a male slave and that of Mary Prince. Though many of their experiences are different, the  consumption of the slave as a commodity is relative to both of their experiences.



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