Themes

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 190

Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market by Walter Johnson takes place in New Orleans and discusses how the slave market worked during this time period. The setting of New Orleans was important because it existed as one of the largest slave markets found in the United States. The novel tells of the lives of both the slaves and the slave traders.

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The themes within the novel are similar to other texts depicting those involved in the slave trade and the institution of slavery as a whole. Themes present in the text are resistance (by both those enslaved and those against slavery), racism (felt by those enslaved), class and entitlement (based upon one's race), humanity (of the slaves, slave owners, and slave traders), and capitalism (given the exuberant amounts of money involved on numerous different levels within the slave trade business).

Given that Johnson tells the story from the numerous sides involved with the slave business, the themes presented in the novel could be identified as fluid. Depending upon the perspective presented, a theme regarding class could change based upon with class with whom the theme is addressing.

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