Please analyze The Longest Memory by Fred D’Aguiar.

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The Longest Memory by Fred D’Aguiar is a novella that explores the complex dynamics within a Virginia plantation, which is a microcosm of plantation life throughout the South. The short novel is told in an epistolary style, using various media and literary mediums to compose the main narrative. This gives...

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The Longest Memory by Fred D’Aguiar is a novella that explores the complex dynamics within a Virginia plantation, which is a microcosm of plantation life throughout the South. The short novel is told in an epistolary style, using various media and literary mediums to compose the main narrative. This gives the book multiple dimensions in terms of character studies. In particular, the story examines the life of Chapel, the son of a loyal plantation slave. The slave owner is Mr. Whitechapel, but he is not physically present at the plantation when the story's dramatic events occur. By using an epistolary format, Chapel's life story and identity is expressed through the viewpoints of various people who knew him and thus offers an intimate portraiture of Chapel.

D’Aguiar does an exceptional job at portraying the multidimensional relationships between white and black people under this setting as well as issues within the black community on the plantation. A prime example of this is the fact that Chapel's father was the one who advised the plantation owner about his son's whereabouts so that he could be retrieved after Chapel had successfully run away from the plantation. This is the beginning of Chapel's end. The other slaves blame Chapel's father for his own son's death. This shows the complicated relations slaves had with each other in an environment in which the people are under the rule of an oppressive authority and have to fight to survive, in conflict between earning the favor of that authority or rebelling against it.

The readers see the brutality of slavery, but they also gain insights into the tensions between slaves and the power dynamics between slave owners and their plantation's administrators. In the case of the latter point, the death of Chapel was directly caused by the severe whipping administered by Mr. Sanders—a white man employed by Mr. Whitechapel to supervise the plantation while Mr. Whitechapel was away—and is reprimanded by Mr. Whitechapel for disobeying orders. Mr. Whitechapel, although the primary slave owner, was less dictatorial and violent than Mr. Sanders, and the former ordered the latter not to implement physical punishments during Mr. Whitechapel's absence.

This section of the story further emphasizes how enslaved human beings are seen as objects, as valuable assets in a corporation. This makes the story of Chapel more intimate, as he, a slave, is humanized despite those in power denying his humanity. This is further emphasized when it is revealed that Chapel and Mr. Whitechapel are half-brothers.

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