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Religious Connotations in The Darker Face of the Earth

An IB Presentation by Becca Weber

Becca Weber

on 28 September 2012

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Transcript of Religious Connotations in The Darker Face of the Earth

Religious Connotations in "The Darker Face of the Earth," by Rita Dove An IB Presentation
Becca Weber Slaves' approach:
First generation slaves retain mostly African traditions
Later, convert because Christianity offers message of equality, deliverance, Heaven, freedom, unity
Hold own worship in quarters called 'invisible institutions' or 'hush harbors'
Religion And Slavery Masters' approach:
Christian slaves are a danger
Conversion means slaves receive limited education
Ignorance is key in slavery- educated slaves know they deserve more
Christian slaves would share a common value system -> united
Result: often restrict or attempt to control worship Songs
Herbal cures
Belief in spirits (voodoo)
Importance of funerals Retained African Traditions Religion Augustus and Phebe:
Connected with Christianity The Conspirators:
Integration of both Christianity and African Traditions Hector and Scylla:
Connected with African Traditions
Connection with Moses:
"This basket will be your cradle now. Blue silk for my prince and a canopy of roses!" (Dove, 1896) --> Moses' basket ride to a better life
Spends time isolated from his family/people during childhood at sea --> hiding in the desert
Sets his people free
"Like a think black net the curse settled over the land" (Dove, 1899) --> pestilence Augustus: A Symbol of Christianity Augustus as Tree of Knowledge:
Scylla's comparison of Augustus to vine (1934) relates to common perception of Tree: bad side=sin/curse
good side=knowledge
Literally: is educated ("Rumor has it he can read and write...an educated nigger brings nothing but trouble" 1902)
plays an instrumental role in revolution
Instead of apple: red rosettes
leads to anagnorisis of Amalia ("Red rosettes?" 1954)

"That's not the spirit of a slave. That's a pure flame" (Dove, 1929) --> depiction of Holy Spirit's transforming abilities in form of flames Phebe Connected with Christianity Phebe organizes revolution: Amalia notes "I happened to see you darting from group to group, talking to this salve and that" (Dove, 1948) --> Holy spirit descending on Apostles, enabling them to speak in tongues to preach Word of God and convert pagans Resemblance to Holy Spirit Scylla and African Traditions African belief in "natural phenomena" (Padgett, "Christianization of Slaves") --> Scylla's conviction in the curse: "When the curse came I stood up to meet it, and it knocked me to the ground" (Dove, 1899)
African worship of spirits --> Scylla's channeling spirits to redirect Phebe: "You have made the spirits angry!" (Dove, 1907) Scylla names him: "Hector, son of Africa" (Dove 1899)
"Eshu Elewa ogo gbogbo" - phrase said as charm or prayer
Also preoccupied with curse: "I took the curse as far away as I could" (Dove, 1937)
Under African belief system, funerals hold special significance because of their respect for the spirits of ancestors --> import of Hector's funeral Hector and African Traditions Mix leads to confusing contradictions:
Password: "May Fate be with you" <---> "Book of Redemption"
Both key initiation points: Fate vs. idea of salvation
"Destiny calls!" <---> "But our Lord is a vengeful God"
Justification: destiny vs. equality under God
"Movements are vaguely ritualistic and creepy, as if they were under a spell" <---> "Selah!"
"Ritualistic" and "spell" recall spirit-centered African worship vs. repeated exclamation of "selah" (comes from the Psalms) The Conspirators: Product of the Blending of Religion Phebe is Augustus' right hand woman
also possibly loves him: "maybe if you hadn't let hate take over your life, you might have had some love left over for me" (Dove, 1947)
Scylla and Hector: understand each other, bound by same curse
Best summed up: at Hector's funeral, Scylla is "ravaged with grief and more stooped than ever" and says "Who can I talk to about his journey? He stood tall, so they bent his back. He found love, so they ate his heart" (Dove , 1945)
Religion Forms Connections Between Characters At the end of the play, is it the curse that triumphs or the Conspirators with their aims of equality?
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