Describing the Indescribable

By far the most emotional account in this week’s readings was that of Nathaniel Paul. Nathaniel Paul’s account detailed the joy and relief associated with the day the emancipation act went into effect. The sheer, inexpressible emotion behind his words are incredibly thought-provoking because I had never before realized how many ways there are to describe slavery, and yet how completely indescribable it truly is. Throughout the account, Nathaniel Paul gives many descriptions of slavery and its various evils, including one particularly thought-provoking line: “Slavery, with its concomitants and consequences, in the best attire in which it can possibly be presented, is but a hateful monster, the very demon of avarice and oppression, from its first introduction to the present time…” (Sernett 187). Paul goes on to eloquently and thoroughly describe slavery and its process. The entire account is entirely captivating, with declarations such as, “Point me to any section of the earth where slavery, to any considerable extent exists, and I will point you to a people whose morals are corrupted…” (Sernett 188). This account forces readers to think thoroughly about slavery, and realize the truth behind Paul’s words.

Nathaniel Paul goes on to say that slavery cannot be described, saying “Its more than detestable picture has been attempted to be portrayed by the learned, and the wise, but all have fallen short, and acknowledged their inadequacy to the task, and have been compelled to submit, by merely giving an imperfect shadow of its reality.” (Sernett 188). However, shortly after this statement Paul goes on to perhaps the most heartfelt lines of the entire chapter, “Tell me, ye mighty waters, why did ye sustain the ponderous load of misery? Or speak, ye winds, and say why it was that ye executed your office to waft them onward to the still more dismal state; and ye proud waves, why did you refuse to lend your aid and to have overwhelmed them with your billows?” (Sernett 190). These lines spoke to me the most because of the pain contained within them. These are words of heartfelt despair, of true and utter feeling, and they open one’s eyes more than anything else in the chapter to the true horror of slavery.

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