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religion in the ‘slave narrative’

There were a few things in particular that struck me about Mary Prince’s joining of the church and connection to religion. In contrast to Equiano’s conversion – which was loaded with rhetoric and seemed almost another way to further his societal progression – Mary Prince’s attraction to the church seems fueled by the solemnity it offers her. In saying that I mean at first she was more attracted to the church as a welcome respite from her horrific slave life. The church also offered her the only form of education that had ever known. Those are both understandable reasons for her to be drawn to the Moravian Church, however, I couldn’t help but notice that shortly after her account of her first finding the church that she was instilled with some sort of fear of sin and god. She doesn’t go into it too deeply, but I kept getting the feeling that she was kind of being taken advantage of by the church. She continually states “I found out that I was a great sinner, I was very sorely grieved, and very much frightened” (18). What serious sins could someone so exploited by the system of slavery have possibly committed that she needed someone else to tell her so? Is she not instilled with some sort of natural morality as most humans are where she can tell right from wrong? I would think that after going through what she does she would not need the religion of her abusers to indicate right from wrong. It is almost like they teased her by educating her just enough so that natural human curiosity pulled her in but no so much as they would lose the intellectual power they held over her. She becomes so taken with her new-found religion that she will not marry her husband until he converts to her church. This just struck a nerve with me as I felt she should have been empowered from her education to come to an understanding of how this societal machine had used her and spit her out, but instead taken advantage of further.

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One thought on “religion in the ‘slave narrative’

  1. I am soo happy that you wrote on the subject of religion! After reading your post Cj it reminded me of a topic we covered while talking about equino and how religion may not always benefit the subject , and may in fact hinder the character. In this situation I feel as if religion is used as another type of self discipline of the slaves. Just as education and the unknown knowledge was withheld from the slaves in order to keep them under control, religion is also helping , maintain control of the slaves … Mentally. In Mary prince the slave owners ultimately have control of their freedom, their health, their bodies and now their mind. I’ve heard people say that the mind is the one thing that self will always be able to control. But it seems like the mind may not be as strong as we thought.

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