The key theme of Styron's Confessions of Nat Turner is how a slavery, a system of oppression, affects everyone involved in it. Turner, an intelligent and, by slave standards, an educated man, is nevertheless condescended to and viewed as less than human by whites. Many slaves, though not necessarily Turner, internalize many of the key elements of slavery, especially racial inferiority. Turner is not by nature a violent man. The institution of slavery makes him that way, just as it corrupts everything else it touches. The impact the book had on popular culture is best understood by its context. It was published in the late 1960s, a period when some African-Americans were beginning to doubt whether they could achieve equality in a white-dominated society. It was broadly criticized by many black intellectuals, particularly for its portrayal of Turner as sexually disturbed. Others questioned whether a white writer like Styron should write a novel about a black man like Turner. But even these passages are presented in the context of the corrupting influence of slavery, where white men raped black women (including, in the novel, Turner's mother) with impunity.