What does the following quote mean?"The color of slaves--that is all--the misery of poverty, alike everywhere, only a person can be beaten with many stripes by his own family--his father or...

What does the following quote mean?

"The color of slaves--that is all--the misery of poverty, alike everywhere, only a person can be beaten with many stripes by his own family--his father or mother--or schoolmaster or superior officer, or her husband, if she is a woman--everybody who chooses, if she be a child."

This can be found in A Wartime Journal by Mary Chesnut.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The excerpt has many different layers to it.  Chesnut's diary really strives to bring many layers of complexity to the challenges and situations brought out by the Civil War conflict.  In this particular section, Chesnut had read writings that predicted a "glorious rise of Southern Confederacy," and is contrasting it with the horrors of the Civil War.   When she writes, "the reality is hideous and an agony," it is a statement contrasting the Southern hopes with the realistic conditions that confront them.  At the same time, she mentions another work preceding the quote about poverty in England.  It is from this that we get the quote.  The meaning of it is to broaden the struggle for being heard to all people.  When she writes that "the color of slaves" is akin to "the misery of poverty everywhere," it helps to bring out the idea that there is a universality of struggle in the conflict that Chesnut recognizes.  We understand that she has broadened the struggle as the acknowledgement of voices of suffering when she writes after the quote, "Whenever there is a cry of pain, I on the side of the one who cries."  In this light, the quote seeks to make the struggle of the Civil War as one of people who wished to be heard and cried in order to have their voice acknowledged.  In her diary, Chesnut recognizes this.

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