"On Being Brought from Africa to America," by Phyllis Wheatley is a poem about .
For Wheatley, slavery is a positive experience because it has brought her closer .
to God's mercy. Living as a slave in early America, much of her poetry is about her relationship .
with God. In this work, Wheatley describes slavery as a process of redemption rather than the .
horrid experience one might expect.
One of the ways Wheatley gives slavery a positive connotation is through diction. She .
uses words such as "mercy," "redemption," "God," and "savior" to show how she values God.
For example, Wheatley associates the redemption process with learning, using words like .
"understand" and "taught." She even says that "mercy" brought her to America. Wheatley also .
wants to become an angel and a Christian. She grows to believe in the goodness of her being a .
slave because this is what she is told. .
Wheatley also uses her biblical knowledge to show the reader how slavery can change .
one's life in a positive way. She uses this knowledge to add to the poem with an allusion--a .
reference to a historical or fictional event or person. Wheatley's allusion is to the Bible story .
about Cain and Abel. Cain killed Abel out of jealousy, but God marked Cain forever so that .
people would know that he was evil. Wheatley compares black people to Cain because other .
Christians look at them as "diabolic." She does not want to be seen that way. She tells white .
Christians that black people like her can be "refined"--or made to be like them. Blacks can .
become "angelic" too and not stay marked like Cain. But, this can only happen with God, so she .
is glad that she's been taught about her "Savior." .
Now that Wheatley is in America, she sees only the negative aspects about her life before .
slavery. She calls Africa a "pagan land," and she tells the reader that her soul is "benighted." .
Wheatley wants to free herself of her past by being "refined" so that she can become a better .