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föstudagur, maí 05, 2006

Sociolinguistics Nína Rúna Kvaran
Professor Matthew Whelpton Kt.140478-4079
Question 3
To the average person such as myself, the term language does not seem to be a very complex one. It somehow feels invariably correct to claim that a language is a tool used by human beings exclusively to communicate with each other and that each nation or country has its own language. Obviously, this is a gross underestimate of the term based on misconception and ignorance that are partly understandable when one thinks of what an automatic action the language use is to a normal person that does not have a handicap in that area. Hudson (1996, p.21) calls language a set of “linguistic items” which constitute of things such as words, sounds and various grammatical structures. When one dives into the seemingly endless terminology of language it quickly becomes evident that language is an extremely complicated phenomena with a huge variety of scientific terms attached to it.
In this essay I will try to examine a mere fraction of terminology associated with language, namely the sociolinguistic terms of bilingualism, multilingualism, diglossia and polyglossia in relation to what these terms are, why they exist and how they function. There will also be some investigation into code choice and code switching. To further understand and learn about these interesting issues an anecdote description of a multilingual domestic situation will be included as well.

As said before, it seems to be an almost automatic assumption to believe that each nation or country has its own language but of course in many cases this could not be further away from the truth. Before looking at this further it is necessary to look at the terms nation and country. A country is usually some kind of geographical area that has borders of some sort separating it from other countries. But as most people know, many different nations, nationalities and ethnic groups can reside in one country either in harmony or at civil war. This of course means that the notion of each country having one language in common is wrong. As Fasold puts it “ A large number of countries are so linguistically diverse that it is not uncommon for even children to be bilingual or multilingual” (Fasold, p.1).
The next natural assumption is to conclude that each nation then must have its own language in common. Unfortunately, that is not so clear cut either since the word “nation” is more complicated to define than one might think. According to Fasold, a nation can consist of a variety of ethnic groups (Fasold, p.2) and he emphasizes the difficulties in distinguishing between ethnic groups and nationalities, calling them “points on a continuum rather than discrete distinction” and claiming that sometimes it is vital to know where a “given groups relative position on this continuum is” (Fasold, p.2). Since each nation might consist of a variety of ethnic groups and nationalities, the United States for example, surely it is save to say that a nation does not necessarily have to be unified in one language. For those who think English is the language of the United States it is maybe a good thing to remember that a huge variety of Spanish-speaking people live in the USA as do populations that speak European, Asian, African and Native American languages and yet all these people are a part of the same North-American nation.
Considering the aforementioned information it is relatively save to say that some nations are multilingual or bilingual, terms that are very closely related. Multilingualism is defined by Whelpton as “an individual’s or a population of individuals’ knowledge of many languages” (Whelpton, p.20) and this means that not only can nations be multilingual but also individuals. Another term that I want to address here is that of bilingualism that Whelpton defines as “an individual’s or a population of individuals’ knowledge of two languages” (Whelpton, p.20). Starting with the idea of the population of individual’s being multilingual or bilingual it is interesting to wonder just why that is. According to Fasold there are usually “historical patterns that lead to the existence” (Fasold, p.9) of multilingualism. Firstly he mentions migration where either “a large group expands its territory by moving into contiguous areas” (Fasold, p.9) and takes control over the existing groups or migration where a fraction of an ethnic group move into another group’s territory and therefore add to the multilingualism there. Secondly he mentions imperialism, which he says, is similar to large group migration except in an imperialistic situation the migration group consists of fewer people that take over control. Thirdly, Fasold mentions the role of federation as a contributing factor in multilingual situations and by federation he is referring to a “union of diverse ethnic groups or nationalities under the political control of one state” (Fasold, p.11). He does explain that voluntary federations are rare but Switzerland is one good example of such a multilingual situation having German, French, Italian and even Romansch as languages that all carry official status. The fourth and last historical pattern Fasold mentions is what he calls “border areas” (Fasold, p.12) but might just as well be called border area confusion. By this he means that every state has to have relatively clearly outlined borders for obvious practical reasons but that “sociocultural groups do not always select their area of residence for the convenience of political boundary drawing” (Fasold, p.12) and therefore sometimes near border areas there are groups of people that are citizens in one country but belong to a sociocultural group in the other country, thereby making the situation somewhat complicated.
After having thus established in one’s mind a fairly understandable idea of what multilingualism and bilingualism are, it is interesting to ponder slightly on how they function. Are monolingual nations perhaps better off than the multilingual ones or vice versa? It is very easy to assume that things should be simpler in a monolingual society and indeed Fasold does mention some problems that follow a multilingual situation. Firstly and perhaps most obviously, having two or more languages in use within the same country or state can cause minor or even serious communication problems within that state. Secondly, the sense of nationality is for example very often strongly entwined with the notion of having one unified language in common such as is the case in Iceland, where the Icelandic language is completely embedded in the whole experience of being an Icelander. People tend to feel unified and more connected to other that speak the same language than to those that speak another language and this is of course very understandable. So the notion of nationalism might suffer for multilingualism. But despite that these facts might point to multilingual states being disadvantaged compared to the monolingual ones, surely a multilingual situation cannot be all evil since it creates a base for an even richer cultural tradition and heritage within a state than perhaps is the case in a monolingual one and in cases where individuals are multilingual or bilingual as a result of the multilingual situation where they come from, chances are they have an advantage within the international community over those who come from a strictly monolingual society.
Another aspect of multilingualism which happens to be of personal interest to me, is that of not a multilingual state or society but of the multilingual family. As said before I would like to include a very brief anecdote description of a multilingual domestic situation so as to further enhance my own understanding of these terms that are being dealt with here.
The situation is thus described: the family unit includes two individuals living together as a couple. Both individuals are bilingual. One individual is a native Spanish speaker that speaks fluent English as well. The second individual is a native Icelandic speaker that also speaks English fluently. It is easy to assume that in such circumstances the most obvious choice of communication would be English but as it turns out, that is not entirely the case. I will come back to this situation when I discuss codes and code switching later on.
Now I want to look at the terms diglossia and polyglossia and examine those a little further. The word diglossia was defined by Charles Ferguson in 1959 after he had made the observation that speakers in many instances use more than one variety of the same language, all according to what social circumstances they might be in at each time. He also noted that sometimes two varieties of the same language coexist in a community and each one has its own distinct role. This is what he called a diglossic situation. This kind of situation is usually such that one of the two varieties is what could be called a Low variety and the other a High variety that is often superposed. A Low variety of language is used in intimate situations, casual entertainment and everything that could be considered common speech. A high variety of a language is used in more formal speech and letters, news broadcasts, sermon, higher education, literature etc. (Whelpton, p.21). Wardhaugh makes a diglossic example out of the case of how English and Norman French coexisted for three centuries after the Norman Conquest in 1066, English being the Low variety and Norman French being the high (Wardhaugh, p.89). Perhaps, since these are not the same languages, it would be better to take a more modern example of a diglossic situation as in Switzerland where Swiss German has Schweizerdeutsch as a Low variety and Hochdeutsch as a High variety. Icelanders tend to believe that there is only one “kind” of Icelandic being used and that everybody speaks the same in Iceland but of course that is not entirely true. On a shear anecdotal note it amusing to mention in this instance a personal experience of mine. I was interviewed on the Icelandic government radio channel a little over a year ago and it was as extensive interview about very personal things. I did not prepare myself in any way for this interview and everything that I said in the live broadcast came very naturally to me and with out any real effort or deliberate thinking of enhancing my language. The next day I listened to a recording of the interview and was shocked to discover that I had automatically used another variation of Icelandic than in my normal everyday speech and I sounded much more like a character from literature speaking than a “real” person. So although there is not a diglossic situation in Iceland with a superposed and a lower variety, there still is “variation within the same language” (Fasold, p.180).
Yet another situation is a so-called polyglossic situation as is to be found in the for example the English-educated communities of Singapore and Malaysia (Whelpton, p.28). This situation is different from a diglossic one in the fact that there is more than one language being used and difficult to “describe the situation coherently in terms of binarity” (Whelpton, p.28). In his reader, Whelpton takes note of how an individual in a Malaysian community is likely to have a huge linguistic repertoire of Malaysian, English and Chinese varieties, all which are to be used within the appropriate social circumstances.
But after going over the aforementioned terminology, it is perhaps only appropriate to examine how people use the different codes they have in their repertoire and why they use them in the way they do. But before going any further, it is wise to try to define the term code first. According to Whelpton a code is “a linguistic system of communication” (Whelpton, p.30) although he does mention that this choice of terms is not entirely a true description since it “implies that the system is a closed and clearly defines system of relationships” (Whelpton, p.30). In other words, a code can refer to a particular language or a variety of a language. In most situations nowadays, there is more than one code available for communicating and therefore it is important how people choose between codes. Sometimes the case is just that, that people choose to switch from one code/language to another and this is generally referred to as code switching, that is to say, when only one code is used at a time. This could refer to a situation similar to the one of Icelandic English students in the university that generally speak only Icelandic with each other and then switch completely over into English in the classroom. Wardhaugh even divides code switching into two categories: situational and metaphorical code switching. He claims that situational code switching occurs when the languages being used by the same speakers change according to the situation they are in, but not necessarily according to the topic. A metaphorical code switching is when a change of topic “requires a change in the language used” (Wardhaugh, p.103).
But sometimes only fractions of one code/language are being used while a speaker is basically using another code/language and this is called code mixing, that is to say, when two (or perhaps more) codes are being used at the same time. Fasold even takes a third example of a so-called “variation within the same language” which could imply for example when people have a Low or High variety of the same language available to them and they have to evaluate themselves when to use each variety.

In conclusion to my very brief exploration into all the terms that I have mentioned, I now want to return to the aforementioned anecdote description and reflect a little bit on all of these terms through the experience of the couple involved so as to enhance my own understanding of the terms and how code switching and mixing can be used.
As said before, both individuals are bilingual in their own native languages and then English. This combination makes for a multilingual home where as much as three languages are being used at the same time. As time has gone by, both individuals have acquired some limited vocabulary in the other’s native language and that development has had a great influence on the possibilities they have in code choosing. In the beginning of the relationship they only spoke to each other in English and that is of course understandable enough. But with increased vocabulary knowledge in each other’s native languages, certain words derived from both Icelandic and Spanish started to seep into the day-to-day conversations of the couple. Interestingly enough, this seems to have happened quite involuntarily and usually follows the same set of rules. It is interesting to wonder why this seemingly unnecessary code manipulation happens since both individuals have a firm grasp of a communal language, that being English. Why did they change their communication tactics from being exclusively monolingual to becoming a multilingual mix of English, Icelandic and Spanish when it seem so obvious that a monolingual situation would be a simpler, more effective way of communicating? My personal, amateur theory is that the answer maybe lies in human nature or perhaps it is a part of what Chomsky’s “bioprogram”.
I do believe that in most cases, one’s native language is a part of one’s identity and as has been mentioned before, speaking the same language can under certain circumstances be a unifying force. In a bilingual relationship where two individuals have different native languages and not enough knowledge of one another’s language to switch over to the other’s code/language, obviously a third communal language serves a very practical purpose in their relations. But the problem is that this third language is not the native language of either one and in some cases, people have a need to express themselves in their own language on a level of intimacy and a third, “neutral” language can at times sound and feel somehow too formal, artificial and impersonal to use on a constant intimate level. What this particular couple has done is to find a kind of compromise (unwillingly though) until and if they ever manage to acquire enough skills to code switch totally to each other’s languages. Here is a brief list explaining some of the details of the seemingly strange code mixing that occurs:
Base language: English
Supplement languages: Icelandic and Spanish
Situation: Normal everyday speech: A combination of all three languages with basic English grammar and sentence structure but isolated words or phrases of Icelandic and Spanish mixed into it. Both individuals seem to equally use these words and phrases of both supplement languages, perhaps having automatically imitated each other with time. With very simple sentences the English is often skipped and a code mix of Icelandic and Spanish used.
Example sentences:
“I want to go út á land.”
“Turn on the sjónvarp por favor.”
“I’m eating my comida!”
“Takk fyrir matinn mi amor.”
“Mi cabeza is hurting.”
Situation: Use of terms of endearments: strangely enough, terms of endearments seem to come almost solely from the Spanish vocabulary and are used evenly by both individuals. Perhaps the reason for this because of the native Icelandic speaker’s lack of introducing Icelandic terms of endearments into the communal vocabulary or maybe the Spanish words of this nature seem more natural or un-awkward to use than the Icelandic ones. This remains a mystery unsolved and only a very few words and phrases of endearment are used from the English and Icelandic vocabulary.
Example sentences:
“Komdu hingað mi amor.”
“Te amo.”
“Tu eres bonita/bonito!”
“Ég elska þig” (one of the few Icelandic uses).
Situation: A serious discussion or sophisticated argument: When engaging in a serious discussion where no details can afford to be misunderstood, English is always the code of choice. Interestingly, when engaged in a calm and sophisticated quarrel, English also tents to be used without any Spanish or Icelandic input. It is understandable that when certain facts must be brought to the light without the risk of misunderstanding occurring, English is the code of choice since that is the language both individuals have the best possibility of understanding each other with. But whether this is solely the reason for English being the code choice in quarrels, there is some doubt. It is altogether likely that the feeling of distance and certain formality that both individuals associate with the English language and is often associated with conflicts and defensive modes is a factor in this choice.
Example sentences: Not necessary. Just normal English speech.
Situation: A full blown, dramatic fight: in the rare occurrence of a fully fledged screaming match where the adrenalin is flowing and all hopes of a sensible discussion are flown out the window, both individuals resort to their own native vocabulary of ravings and swear words, totally disregarding code switching or mixing. This is not a surprise since when most people are very upset and reduced to childish fighting, they generally are past caring about what the other person is saying and too busy venting their own rage, so they might as well express themselves in their own language since the other person probably is not listening to them anyway.
Example sentences: Edited out for the sake of common decency.


Whelpton, Matthew. Sociolinguistics 05.15.35. Háskóli Íslands. 2003, 20-34.

Fasold, Ralph. (1984). The Sociolinguistics of Society. Oxford: Blackwell.

Wardhaugh, Ronald. (1998). An Introduction to Sociolinguistics. Third Edition.
Oxford: Blackwell. Ch.4.

R.A. Hudson. Sociolinguistics. Second Edition. Cambridge University Press. 1996,

miðvikudagur, maí 03, 2006

American Literature 1600-1800 Exam Essay
Prof. Magnús Fjalldal

The Triple Subaltern as Seen in
Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl

Nína Rúna Kvaran
Spring 2006
There are many sins the human race has committed against itself. They range from the petty evils of the individual to grand scale operations performed by states and governments under the protection of law. Western societies today pride themselves of having a status of law which stands for no injustice to be tolerated against the individual who is protected and entitled to his human and civil rights. The harsh reality tells another story — a story of prejudice, discrimination, and violation of everything that is sacred to the human individual. What is here being referred to is human slavery — when an individual is robbed of the freedom of choice over his (or her) physical, economical, and social fate.
It is a well-known fact that slavery is not a thing belonging only to some obscure and embarrassing past. It is widely spread in the world today and has many forms. Child slavery where children are used as a prolific work force and made to suffer under detestable circumstances, deprived of the right to be nourished, loved, and educated, is an accepted part of many societies. Saudi-Arabia and some other countries in the Middle East keep women under such restriction by law that their social status is nothing short of having to spend a lifetime as a man’s property, totally dependent on him and submissive to his authority. Media coverage in Western societies on the sex slavery of young women as a growing and popular industry (although thankfully not permitted by law) is startling.
It seems slavery has been a part of human history since the beginning of time and although vast improvements have been made in the world slavery is far from being totally abolished and its sad heritage is not easily erased. This is especially true in countries such as the United States where slavery was so profoundly based on racial discrimination, a fact that made it easier in execution and gave ways to an ideology of justification for slavery. African Americans were not only conveniently recognizable as slaves by the color of their skin, they could also easily be branded as a different type of human being for it, a lower creature than the white man, made by God to serve him. With these facts on the slave history of North America in mind, it is not exceedingly difficult to imagine how life must have been for the African American woman. Living in times of legal slavery of her race and the subordinate position of the female gender in general to male domination, her life must have been marked by heavy burdens.
It is the idea of the African American female slave as a triple subaltern in 19th century American society — being a woman, being black, and being a slave — which will be the subject of this essay as seen in the historical and auto-biographical book Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Linda Brent.

As is mentioned in the introduction to the book by Walter Teller, Linda Brent was not the author’s real name.[1] For her own safety and that of others, she changed the names of people and places throughout her narration, despite that more than a decade had passed since the actual events of the story took place. Due to the enacting of the Fugitive Slave Law in 1850, people such as Brent, who had run away from bondage, could be arrested and returned to slavery even if they were living in a free state. This fact is just one of many depictions of the injustice inflicted on African Americans as Brent portrays in her narration.
Having had a happy childhood, blissfully unaware of the fact that she was born a slave, Brent’s life came to a terrible turning point when she at the age of twelve found herself in the enforced service of Dr. Flint and his wife. To escape from the doctor’s sexual harassment and attempts to exploit her in such a way, Brent ran away and spent seven years confined in a tiny space of her grandmother’s house before eventually escaping to freedom at the age of twenty-seven. In her book, she not only describes her own emotional state and experience of being a slave but as well gives the reader a glimpse into the more terrible fates of so many other slaves that she knew personally or otherwise. Her narration holds a unique place among the few biographies and autobiographies of slaves that were published because, as Walter Teller says in his introduction to Brent’s narration: “Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl, published in 1861, was one of the last and most remarkable of its genre and also one of the very few written by a woman” (Teller, ix).
The term “subaltern” arrives from post-colonial studies and is explained thoroughly in the book Key Concepts in Post-Colonial Studies. In it, Italian Antonio Gramsci is said to have adopted the term subaltern to “refer to those groups in society who are subject to the hegemony of the ruling classes” (Ashcroft, Williams & Tiffin, 213). Although the term subaltern, meaning “of inferior rank” (Ashcroft, Williams & Tiffin, 213) was originally used by a group of historians who had interest in South Asian studies, it can easily apply to any class or group of society that is oppressed by the ruling classes. Therefore to claim that the social situation of Brent as an African American slave woman is in fact a triple subaltern position is reasonable. In John Hope Franklin’s article “A Brief History of the Negro in the United States” published in The American Negro Reference Book,[2] he mentions that as the Spanish and Portuguese ventured further into Africa in the 14th century, taking Africans to Europe to serve their purposes, they saw it as only natural to also bring them later to the New World. As he says: “Thus, they took Africans to Europe and made servants of them, justifying this invasion of human rights by declaring that Africans would have the opportunity to cast off their heathenism and become Christians” (Franklin, 1). The African continent was therefore exploited and colonized and became, at least partly, subaltern to European rule. The descendants of these Africans, born in America into slavery, as Brent was, had therefore been in a subaltern position for generations.
There are two notions that are inseparable from the term subaltern that have to be mentioned in the context of Brent’s book. These are the notions of the voice of the subaltern class or person and that of surveillance. When looking at the position that slaves in America held, it is difficult to imagine that they had any voice at all. Their restrictions were such that politics, economics, and education were almost impossible goals for them to reach. As Brent herself mentions in her narration it was not even legal to teach a slave how to read and write so as a consequence the majority was kept in complete ignorance, making it impossible for them to ever have a voice of their own in society. Brent held a unique position as a slave because of her literacy and without knowing how to read and write, her story would most likely have been lost to the world, as are most of the stories of individual slaves. In post-colonial studies, the idea of the subaltern’s voice (or rather lack of) is explained by the fact that very often history is recorded by ways of the dominant class and in the voice of the dominant class as well. Therefore the erasure of the subaltern’s original identity and background begins and evolves until it is mostly forgotten, and the position of the oppressed is all the subaltern class knows as its own.
When looking at Brent’s narration this is very true. Of course she is fighting strongly against the dominance of the white race and her story could have been used as a tool by abolitionists to plead their cause. But at the same time it cannot be ignored that the only way Brent has to express herself is by the means of the very class she is oppressed by. Her narration is firstly written, a means of expression rarely at the disposal of slaves and therefore hardly a form true to their own unique voice. Secondly, she writes in an educated style of English, which would hardly have been the way she or other slaves spoke amongst themselves. Quite often in the book she directly quotes other slaves’ speech and writes out their dialogue, creating a striking difference between her own writing style and the grammar use of the people she comes from. Even if she had the good fortune to be educated by her first mistress one would think that she had retained her own people’s way of speech, at least in communication with them. She does mention that she tried to keep the fact that she was literate to herself, so as not to cause envy among other slaves. The fact that she then writes her narration in the speech and manner of the very class that oppressed her people, taking on the voice of the dominant so she may be heard, fits perfectly within the idea that the subaltern that has no “official” history has no voice of its own either. Of course, it must not be ignored that obviously the situation within the literary world has changed dramatically in the time that has elapsed since Brent wrote her book. Had she chosen to write her story in a style more similar to the then African American way of English speech, as is popular in many cases today,[3] it is unlikely it would have been published.
When discussing the power of the dominant classes over the subaltern, the term “surveillance” or the “imperial gaze” is mentioned in Key Concepts in Post-Colonial Studies:
This gaze corresponds to the ‘gaze of the grand-autre’ within which the identification, objectification and subjection of the subject are simultaneously enacted: the imperial gaze defines the identity of the subject, objectifies it within the identifying system of power relations and confirms its subalterneity and powerlessness. (Ashcroft, Williams & Tiffin, 226)
One of the key elements of the imperial gaze is said to be in exploration and travel writing, both popular in the nineteenth century; sometimes describing landscape, sometimes its inhabitants, but almost invariably with an air of dominance or a will to master the situation. Although this may not seem to be directly connected to Brent’s experience at first glance, there is a strong connection with the very European mindset of the imperial gaze and the situation of the female slave. Firstly, the theory applies in a colonial and imperial sense since the slaves in America were taken by force from Africa to be sold and used as any other property. Africa was explored and “gazed” at with the intent to exploit it in any way possible. One of the most tragic results of this surveillance was slavery — the very worst type of human exploitation. Secondly, this is relevant in the discussion of male dominance over the female subaltern. In her article “Woman’s Stake: Filming the Female Body”, from the book Feminism and Film, Mary Ann Doane notes that since women have historically served the submissive role of the one who is gazed upon, and not the opposite, the movies, by their essence being something that is watched by people, reflect that reality by serving the male gaze:
The impasse confronting feminist filmmakers today is linked to the force of a certain theoretical discourse, which denies the neutrality of the cinematic apparatus itself. A machine for the production of images and sounds, the cinema generates and guarantees pleasure by corroboration of the spectator’s identity. Because that identity is bound up with that of the voyeur and the fetishist, because it requires for its support the attributes of the ‘non-castrated’, the potential for illusory mastery of the signifier, it is not accessible to the female spectator, who, in buying her ticket, must deny her sex. (Doane, 86-87)
This idea of the male gaze on the female body[4] is an underlying theme in Brent’s book and, in fact, the root of all her problems. It is not only the obvious sexual harassment she must endure from Dr. Flint that is appalling but also her descriptions of just how common such situations were between masters and slave women. When people are given ultimate power over others, it often corrupts them. Therefore it is not exceedingly surprising to discover that slave owners frequently bedded their female slaves, creating so-called “mulatto” children. This sexual exploitation was not only condoned, it was almost accepted as a social norm, as the laws on the matter clearly demonstrated: the child begotten would follow the condition of the mother. Since relations between a white woman and a black male slave leading to pregnancy were not nearly as common, most mulatto children would be born into slavery despite having a white father. Brent speaks of this clever but cruel system with utter contempt and no wonder, since it ensured that most people of color (even if light-complexioned) were marked for slavery from birth and slave owners could easily get rid of their unwanted offspring by simply selling them away.
The situation for the slave woman as depicted in Brent’s book is that of utter submission to the white man. Even if white women were certainly also subject to male authority, they had some rights as human beings, which is more than slave women had. According to Brent, mulatto girls and women were especially at risk in regard to rape and sexual exploitation at the hands of slave owners. She tells the tale of her youngest uncle, Benjamin, who is thrown in prison as punishment for running away. His owner finally manages to sell him to a slave trader, but it is not an easy task due to his rebellious nature that was not considered a good quality in a slave. But had he been a young girl, being as good-looking and light-complexioned as he was, the story would have been different no matter what character qualities or flaws he possessed: “He said he would give any price if the handsome lad was a girl. We thanked God that he was not” (Brent, 22). The deep-rooted fear of white men and the knowledge of their undisputable status of power are furthermore reflected in Brent’s reaction when she realizes that her newborn child is female:
When they told me my new-born babe was a girl, my heart was heavier than it had ever been before. Slavery is terrible for men; but it is far more terrible for women. Superadded to the burden common to all, they have wrongs, and sufferings, and mortifications peculiarly their own. (Brent, 79)
When looking at Brent’s own personal experience with white, male dominance, it seems that despite being in a very subaltern position she was remarkably lucky when it came to the physical aspect of her relations with her owner. She was a house-slave and therefore escaped the physical hardships of working on the plantations. But when considering her seven-year confinement in a space so small that she could not stretch her limbs nor stand up, one can claim that she suffered her share of physical torment. The more interesting fact is the way in which Dr. Flint tries to subdue her to his will. She is only around fourteen or fifteen years old when he starts “poisoning” her mind as she refers to it. His sexual innuendos are both whispered in her ear or notes are pressed into her hand to read later. It is quite amazing, considering what kind of character Dr. Flint is and what kind of extreme status of power he has over his slaves, that he would confine his sexual harassment to the verbal and written word. He uses any technique that he can within that frame to get Brent to submit to his sexual desires without any results. Never does she mention that he fondled her or had any other physical contact with her of a sexual nature. He never allowed her to be punished by the whip like so many others were, although eventually he struck her on more than one occasion himself; minor physical punishments in comparison to a bare-back whipping. Dr. Flint does represent a male authority figure in Brent’s life but he is not the typical physical brute of a man one might expect him to be. If he really wanted so badly to bed this slave girl that belonged to him, why did he not just rape her and have it done with? Legally she had no protection from this so he could have had his way without much difficulty. Years of drawn-out mental battles between the two would have been avoided and any uncomfortable aftermath, such as possible children, could have been sold to the highest bidder. But Dr. Flint seems to be intelligent and perceptive enough to realize that sheer physical domination over this woman’s body would never be quite as satisfying as the domination over her mind and spirit.
Domestic violence and abuse are still today an incredibly widespread social problems and quite acceptable in many countries. Women in particular are vulnerable to violence within the home. In fact, according to most research on the matter, strangers seem to pose less threat to women than their own husbands or boyfriends. Although Brent was not Dr. Flint’s wife or girlfriend, she was part of his family’s household so his treatment of her can be seen as a form of domestic abuse. After all, she has been living under the man’s roof since the age of twelve and he is the head of that home and the only male authoritarian figure in her life since her father’s death. The fact that he is also about forty years her senior, makes the whole situation even more detestable. It seems that the personal relationship between Dr. Flint and Brent reflects perfectly the relations between the superior force and the subaltern element. It is not enough for Dr. Flint to physically dominate Brent as would have perhaps been the easiest solution for him. He knows that he already legally owns her body[5] and therefore can do what he wants with it, but he wants her soul also. The ruling class of whites kept slaves in ignorance and misinformation in order to dominate them even more. Brent even mentions how slaves were sometimes appointed their own time in the church, where sermons on the appropriate behavior and acceptance of the slaves’ own situation were emphasized; a kind of brainwashing. Chains and whips are certainly sufficient tools in maintaining control over the oppressed, but breaking their spirit by convincing them that their lower status in life is acceptable and even ordained from by is far better.
This is what Dr. Flint is doing to Brent throughout her life in his house. He wants absolute control over her (body and soul) and becomes all the more obsessed with reaching his goal when he meets such a strong resistance in the slave girl. It seems as if his intentions are to seduce Brent to submit to him sexually with the promises of raising her to a concubine status where she would be able to lead a life of relative luxury and void of hardships. He even has the audacity to say that he will make a real “lady” of her, as ridiculously contradictory as that may seem to the fact that he wants her to be his sexual plaything. Perhaps his insistence in this matter is also connected to the fact that Brent’s grandmother was a free woman (although born a slave), and she was something of an irritation (and perhaps intimidation) to Dr. Flint. He knew the strong moral values the old woman had instilled in her children, and to see her granddaughter fall into disgrace at Dr. Flint’s hands would have been a victory not only over the young slave that so often had “outrageously” rejected him and wounded his masculine pride, but also over her grandmother, whose state of freedom was a constant insult to his senses.
The sad part of the story is perhaps that although Brent never has to sexually submit to Dr. Flint, she does compromise the strong moral values her grandmother had instilled in her when she eventually starts an affair with another white man, Mr. Sands. Although enraged by this, Dr. Flint in a way managed to drive Brent into making a choice that was by her own standards and that of her grandmother’s, a shameful one. For any woman at the time to have a sexual liaison with a man not her husband, was scandalous but this was especially so for Brent who had been taught to maintain such self-respect by her grandmother. But true to her nature, the old woman puts Dr. Flint in his place when he tries to rub in her face the fact of her grandchild’s affair with Mr. Sands: “‘I tell you what, Dr. Flint,’ said she, ‘you ain’t got many more years to live, and you’d better be saying your prayers. It will take ‘em all, and more too, to wash the dirt off your soul’” (Brent, 84).
It is of some interest to examine Brent’s own justifications for her decision to be so adamant in rejecting the doctor’s advances but then to allow herself to be seduced by another white man. As she looks back on her past actions, her shame is obvious and reflects strongly on the patriarchal standards of the society she lived in; a society in which a woman would be judged harshly for sexual promiscuity[6] while a man would usually escape stigma:
I will not try to screen myself behind the plea of compulsion from a master; for it was not so. Neither can I plead ignorance or thoughtlessness. For years, my master had done his utmost to pollute my mind with foul images, and to destroy the pure principles inculcated by my grandmother, and the good mistress of my childhood. The influences of slavery had had the same effect on me that they had on other young girls; they had made me prematurely knowing, concerning the evil ways of the world. I knew what I did, and did it with deliberate calculation. (Brent, 54)
When looking at Brent’s lover, Mr. Sands, it is easy to fall into the same trap that she herself did in thinking that he might somehow change her situation to the better. But as it turns out, he was just another white man taking advantage of a slave girl’s misery; yet another example of Brent’s helpless situation as a female living in an extremely male oriented society. She was only fifteen years old and Mr. Sands knew something of her situation with Dr. Flint. Pretending to care for her well being, he made himself her friend and eventually lover. He took advantage of her youth and childishness:
So much attention from a superior person was, of course, flattering; for human nature is the same in all. I also felt grateful for his sympathy, and encouraged by his kind words. It seemed to me a great thing to have such a friend. By degrees, a more tender feeling crept into my heart. He was an educated and eloquent gentleman; too eloquent, alas, for the poor slave girl who trusted in him. (Brent, 55)
As it turned out, Mr. Sands was of little help to Brent and although he begot two children with her and was full of promises and seeming good will, he never treated them as his own nor gave them freedom when the opportunity finally came. But as Brent herself explains, she felt “something akin to freedom in having a lover who has no control over you, except that which he gains by kindness and attachment” (Brent, 55). With this in mind, Brent’s decision to take a lover, although it eventually leads to part of her ruin and despair, can be seen as an act of rebellion against the ruling, male element (which Dr. Flint is a representative of) which has forced her kind into a subaltern position.
One of the most influential and important African Americans from the nineteenth century was Frederick Douglass and there are a number of scholars that have examined his life and writing. In her essay “The Punishment of Esther: Frederick Douglass and the Construction of the Feminine” published in the book Frederick Douglass: New Literary and Historical Essay, Jenny Franchot discusses how “the sexual and physical abuse of the slave woman is especially apparent in the two antebellum versions of Douglass’s autobiography” (Franchot, 141). Franchot emphasizes how common this kind of sexual exploitation and general abuse against black women was according to Douglass. This matches perfectly with Brent’s experience. She is not only sexually harassed by Dr. Flint and then later sexually taken advantage of by Mr. Sands,[7] she also has to live in constant fear of Dr. Flint selling her children away. As Franchot explains:
The atrocities of slavery find their most powerful synecdoche in the silenced figure of the slave mother forced to endure rape, concubinage, and the theft of her children. Douglass’s continued rhetorical exposure of the black woman’s suffering body is crucial to his lifelong mission of disclosing the sins of the white fathers by turning slavery’s hidden interiors into the publicized exterior of prose — an exposure that claims for itself a metaphysical power. (Franchot, 141)
When looking at the grand scheme of slavery in context of how slavery affected southern society and family unit in general, Brent makes an excellent case as she demonstrates how it caused a moral and social deterioration among the ruling classes. What is most relevant here, since this is a feminist viewing of Brent’s narration, is how slavery not only led to the especially humiliating sexual exploitation of the black woman but subsequently to the social and emotional humiliation of the white wives of slaveholders. From this, Mrs. Flint was no exception and therefore her character deserves some attention.
Brent shows an exceptionally perceptive understanding of Mrs. Flint’s situation as the wife of a slave-owner despite the fact that the woman hated her for being the focus of her husband’s sexual attention. Brent seems to understand that although women such as Mrs. Flint were “free” in word, their situation often was little more than slavery in its own sense. Women at the time often did not even choose their own husbands and after the wedding were to submit to their authority. Even if the husband turned out to be intolerable and fond of breaking the sacred marriage vows, divorce was almost impossible, and the wife often could do little to change her fate. Brent gives as an example of this, a description of how naïve daughters of northerners would sometimes be given into marriage to southern slaveholders, only to be bitterly disappointed:
The poor girls have romantic notions of a sunny clime, and of the flowering vines that all the year round shade a happy home. To what disappointments are they destined! The young wife soon learns that the husband in whose hands she has placed her happiness pays no regard to his marriage vows. Children of every shade of complexion play with her own fair babies, and too well she knows that they are born unto him of his own household. Jealousy and hatred enter the flowery home, and it is ravaged of its loveliness. (Brent, 35)
In Mrs. Flint case, this seems to be exactly what takes place. She knows about her husband’s interest in Brent and, being unable to really do anything about the situation except have the occasional outburst and argument with her husband, takes on a hateful disposition towards the young girl who is his victim. This is a clear case of two women being oppressed by one man, but instead of sympathizing with each other and working together to overthrow his chauvinist authority in the household, they are driven asunder by Mrs. Flint’s childish jealousy aimed at Brent. From a feminist point of view Mrs. Flint’s disposition towards Brent is disappointing to say the least, as by mistreating and abusing the young slave girl, she in fact contributes to the continual oppression of women, no matter what their color might be. Brent’s own description demonstrates this clearly:
As I went on with my account her color changed frequently, she wept, and sometimes groaned. She spoke in tones so sad, that I was touched by her grief. The tears came to my eyes; but I was soon convinced that her emotions arose from anger and wounded pride. She felt that her marriage vows were desecrated, her dignity insulted; but she had no compassion for the poor victim of her husband’s perfidy. She pitied herself as a martyr; but she was incapable of feeling for the condition of shame and misery in which her unfortunate, helpless slave was placed. (Brent, 32)
The question that then remains is why Mrs. Flint was unable to feel any sympathy for the young girl so unfairly treated by her husband? The answer to this leads back to the original idea of Brent as a subaltern person in the extreme. Even if they are both females, Mrs. Flint seems to have no compassion or even the slightest interest in understanding the young girl’s dilemma. In fact, she does not even seem to consider her as a human being. Had Brent been a white girl, Mrs. Flint’s attitude might have been different, but in the case of a black, female slave, she is simply incapable of showing mercy. It is Brent’s subaltern position of being black and a slave, which makes it impossible for Mrs. Flint to identify with her as a woman. The sisterhood she might feel with other women is certainly not extended to black women whom she regards inferior to herself.
As Brent says, the northern free states were not always as wonderful as many a slave imagined them to be. Even if they did not tolerate slavery, prejudice and racism thrived there and Brent even dedicates a small chapter of her book exclusively to describe her own experience in these mattes. As a nurse for Mrs. Bruce’s baby, Brent travels with her to Albany by steamboat. There she is ordered to leave the table all the passengers are seated at and that by a servant who shares her color; an example of a person in a subaltern position aiding the ruling class and contributing to the continual of his own people’s oppression. Furthermore, as Brent accompanies Mrs. Bruce to a hotel she finds herself the only black nurse there and as a result her presence is seen somewhat as an insult to the establishment. As supper is served, Brent seats herself at the table with her small charge in her lap. She is immediately approached and asked to seat the child in the chair, stand behind it, and feed it. Then she is welcome to enjoy a supper of her own in the kitchen. Brent´s reaction is yet again evidence of her courage and self-respect. Instead of accepting silently these humiliating requests, as so many might have done, she stands up with the child, retreats to her room and refuses to return to the table. Amazingly, after some time of taking her and the child’s meals in her room, Brent is subject to not only complaints from the white waiters of the hotel who find it insulting to serve “a negro”, but also from black servants of boarders who find it unfair that she receives special treatment. Brent’s admirable answer to this is:
My answer was that the colored servants ought to be dissatisfied with themselves, for not having too much self-respect to submit to such treatment; that there was no difference in the price of board for colored and white servants, and there was no justification for difference of treatment. I staid a month after this, and finding that I was resolved to stand up for my rights, they concluded to treat me well. Let every colored man and woman do this, and eventually we shall cease to be trampled under foot by our oppressors. (Brent, 181-183)

Brent’s narration is truly a remarkable reading and well deserving of the attention it has received since its publication. The mastery of the book is perhaps how clearly it reveals the flaws of human nature and at the same time demonstrates the enormous bravery and self-sacrifice of unique individuals such as Brent herself and those that aided her in her escape from slavery. The structures and restrictions of societies are usually rigid and slow to change so the choice of many is to let things take their own course. Even those that are downtrodden by a ruling force are sometimes slow to react to their own defense as Brent reveals numerous times in her story. The routine of life as it is, even if it offers conditions such as slavery that are completely unacceptable, is sometimes easier than the choice of taking a stand and fighting against tyranny. Therefore people such as Brent are all the more admirable because the mere fact that a person is being deprived of her human rights does not automatically make that person a human rights fighter. It takes people of special character and iron-will to stand against a socially superior force and Brent certainly was one of those people. Even if little to nothing is known of her life after her narration ends, the life described in it, and the fact that she had the book published considering that it was not without risk, makes her a hero. Brent was in a triple subaltern position as a black, female slave living in the 19th century. Despite this, she managed to lead her life in such a way that it challenged completely the accepted patriarchal society of the southern states of America. As a slave she continually disobeyed her master when refusing to accept his sexual offers. By doing so, no matter how submissive she had to be in his household in any other respect; she challenged his authority in a most provocative manner and eventually prevailed over him by the most outrageous act of slave defiance: by running away. Her rebellion against Dr. Flint was not only an attack on the social structure of the time and place in regard to the supreme position of whites over blacks. It was also a feminist revolt against the rule of male, chauvinist dominance, making Brent not only a human rights fighter in her own way, but also a fighter for women’s rights.
Finally, Brent discusses in detail the deep-rooted racism of her country and the psychological consequences of its obsession with color. She not only mentions the intricate social problems associated with the interracial mixing which inevitably took place, such as the scrutinizing attention shown to slight differences in skin color and complexion, even amongst the slaves themselves. She also directly criticizes white people and black alike for allowing the situation to continue. She emphasizes the importance of the African American self-respect and blatantly encourages rebellion against their oppressors. She is therefore also an advocate for the social redemption of the black people of America. Brent might have been in a triple subaltern social position in body for the first twenty-seven years of her life, but she certainly was not in her mind and spirit.

Works Cited

Ashcroft, Bill, Gareth Williams and Helen Tiffin. Key Concepts in Post-Colonial
Studies. London & New York: Routledge, 1999. 213-219.
Brent, Linda. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. New York: Harcourt Brace
Jovanovich, 1983.
Doane, Mary Ann. “Woman’s Stake: Filming the Female Body”. Feminism and
Film. Ed. Ann Kaplan. New York: Oxford UP, 2000. 86-99.
Franchot, Jennny. “The Punishment of Esther: Frederick Douglass and the Construction of the Feminine”. Frederick Douglass: New Literary and Historical Essays. Ed. Eric J. Sundquist. New York: Cambridge UP, 1990. 141-165.
Franklin, John Hope. “A Brief History of the Negro in the United States”. The American Negro Reference Book. Ed. John P. Davis. Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1966. 1-3.
Teller, Walter. “Introduction”. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, 1983. ix.

[1] Her real name was Harriet Brent Jacobs.
[2] Not exactly a “politically correct” title for a book nowadays but this book was published in 1966.
[3] See for example Irvine Welsh’s novel Trainspotting, which pictures the miserable lives of the somewhat subaltern lower classes of Scotland and is written almost entirely in the Scottish dialect unique to them.
[4] Although Doane is referring to the male gaze in context of movie viewing, her theory can apply to literature and real life as well.
[5] Actually, Brent was Dr. Flint’s daughter’s property.
[6] It must not be ignored that here a 19th century, American standard is being used to look at Brent’s behavior. To have two children out of wedlock with a man (even if he was single), not to mention in an inter-racial relationship, probably was a catastrophically stigmatizing situation for a woman to be in at the time.
[7] When considering how young Brent was when Mr. Sands starts having sexual relations with her and how he later came to treat their children, what else can it be called other than that he took sexual advantage of her?

mánudagur, maí 01, 2006

Skyggn á ferð

Í erindum mínum hjá ýmsum félögum undanfarin ár, hef ég oft til gagns og gamans sagt frá dulrænni reynslu, jafnframt því sem ég hef lagt áherslu á mikilvægi jákvæðrar hugsunar. Hér á eftir ætla ég að bregða upp dæmi um slíka dulræna reynslu.
Þetta gerðist í Connecticut í Bandaríkjunum en þangað fór ég árið 1983 ásamt góðri vinkonu minni, sem átti það erindi að heimsækja systur sína. Ætlunin var að við dveldumst hjá þessari konu í nokkrar vikur, en hún bjó með tveimur fullorðnum sonum sínum. Þegar þangað var komið fengum við vinkonurnar til afnota kjallara hússins. Það voru notaleg húsakynni.
Ég vil geta þess áður en lengra er haldið, að þegar flugvél okkar flaug yfir Bandaríkin, fann ég, mér til mikillar undrunar sterka tilfinningu sorgar, næstum óbærilegrar hryggðar og fylltist einhvers konar óskiljanlegu vonleysi. Þessar einkennilegu kenndir færðust í aukana þegar að lendingu kom. Það var engu líkara en ég færi gegnum haf af hugsanagervum, tengdum átökum mannlegra tilfinninga og kennda, sem virtust standa í einhverju sambandi við ofbeldi, átök og styrjaldir.
Hugsanagervi kalla ég fyrirbæri , sem líkja mætti við ósýnileg ský, sem aðeins skyggnir fá séð og skynjað, en þau er að finna yfir löndum, borgum og reyndar hvarvetna þar sem mannleg samskipti hafa átt sér stað. Þau eru lifandi afl, mynduð af hugsunum manna, sífellt á hreyfingu og mjög virk, ýmist til góðs eða ills, eftir því úr hvers konar hugsunum þau hafa skapast. Í augum skyggnra eru litbrigði þeirra því ýmist fögur eða skuggaleg. Áhrif þeirra á mannsálina geta því verið mjög jákvæð eða beinlínis lamandi. Þetta sýnir ljóslega mikilvægi hugsunarinnar. Þess vegna hvarflaði að mér við lendingu, að hér hlytu að vera ýmsir óuppgerðir hlutir í samskiptum lifenda og látinna.
Það kom mér því ekki beinlínsis á óvart fyrsta kvöldið mitt í kjallaraíbúðinni þegar ég skynjaði að þar var fyrir hópur látinna. Mér er vitanlega ljóst, að ýmsir sem lesa um slíkt og eru efasemdarmenn og óskyggnir, munu telja þetta hugaróra eina. Um slíka afstöðu hef ég ekkert annað að segja en það, að mér er þetta fullkominn veruleiki, þótt öðrum sé hann hulinn. Það er ekki öllum gefið að trúa því sem þeir geta ekki sjálfir skynjað, jafnvel þótt það sé stutt með rökum.
En áfram með söguna. Mér varð fljótt ljóst í nálægð þessa löngu látna fólks, að ein veran reyndist hafa sterkasta löngun til tjáskipta við mig. Þetta var ung, forkunnarfögur indíánastúlka, sérlega hárprúð með hátt gáfulegt enni, dökkan augnaumbúnað og óvenjulega hrífandi, næstum töfrandi augnaráð. Hún gekk hægt að rúminu mínu og horfði stíft á mig, fögrum tárvotum augum, sem endurspegluðu í senn eftirvæntingu, hryggð og einhvers konar ótta. Hún rétti fram hendurnar, eins og í bæn, og var með grátstafinn í kverkunum, full trúar og vonar. Hún sagði:,,Elsku hjálpaðu mér. Ég finn ekki barnið mitt. Ég er svo örvæntingarfull. Í langan tíma hef ég reynt að komast í samband við þá sem hér hafa verið, en árangurslaust. En þegar ég sá þig vaknaði von mín. Þú sérð mig og heyrir í mér. Ég veit og trúi því að þú getir hjálpað mér í neyð minni, þreyttri og örmagna.”
Ég varð bæði undrandi og snortin. Hvað átti ég að gera? Hvers vegna var hún á reiki í þessu húsi? Af hverju hafði hún orðið viðskila við barnið sitt?
Að vísu hef ég verið gædd bæði skyggnigáfu og dulheyrn frá barnæsku. Jafnvel þótt ég hafi í mörg ár reynt að létta lifandi fólki lífið, þá efaðist ég um að það væri á mínu valdi að sefa sorg látinnar veru. Einhverra hluta vegna ýtti ég þessu frá mér, því satt best að segja, þá taldi ég mig ekki ráða við þetta vandamál. En það breytti engu, því þessi elskulega en óhamingjusama stúlka hélt áfram að birtast mér kvöld eftir kvöld og endurtók sífellt það sama. Ég ákvað þá að gera allt sem í mínu valdi stæði henni til stuðnings. Ég ákvað að fara leið bænarinnar. Ef það væri Guðs vilji, að ég yrði farvegur til lausnar í þessu máli og stúlkunni yrði að ósk sinni, þá væri ég reiðubúin. Ég fór ekki fram á annað en skynsamlega og réttláta lausn fyrir hana í raunum hennar, sem virtust aðallega liggja í vilja hennar til þess að finna barnið sitt.
Henni létti strax við bænir mínar og skömmu seinna birtust tvær bjartar verur sem leiddu hana á brott.
Eftir þetta birtist hún mér ekki um tíma og ég taldi málið þannig vera úr mínum höndum. Svo var það eitt af síðustu kvöldum dvalar okkar þarna vestra, að okkur vinkonunum var boðið til kunningja gestgjafa okkar. Ég vil taka það fram, að ég hafði í trúnaði sagt vinkonu minni frá samskiptum mínum við iníánastúlkuna. En mér til mikils ama og undrunar erum við varla fyrr sestar í boðinu en vinkona mín fer að segja heimilisfólkinu þar, eins og ekkert sé eðlilegra, frá samskiptum mínum og indíánastúlkunnar. Ekki varð ég síður hissa þegar ég varð vör við gífurlegan áhuga húsbóndans á þessari frásögn. Hann hlustaði með mikilli athygli og upplýsti síðan þá staðreynd, að á þessum stað þar sem við höfðum dvalist, hefðu einmitt staðið tjaldbúðir indíána til forna og að í sögu Bandaríkjanna væri að finna frásögn af hernaðarlegum átökum hvítra manna og indíána einmitt á þessum stað.
Þótt ég hafi í upphafi verið lítt þakklát vinkonu minni fyrir að fara brydda upp á þessu leyndarmáli mínu hjá ókunnugu fólki, fór þó svo, að ég varð henni að lokum í rauninni þakklát, því að upplýsingar mannsins staðfestu, að það sem ég hafði séð átti sér rætur í raunveruleika fortíðarinnar.
Síðasta kvöldið mitt í Bandaríkjunum var einhver elskulegasta stund sem ég hef upplifað. Um miðnætti birtist mér enn indíánastúlkan mín, geislandi af hamingju, full af þakklæti. Við hlið sér hafði hún dæmalaust fallegt barn, sem virtist vera dóttir hennar. Erfitt er að lýsa þeim tilfinningum sem um mig fóru. Ég varð enn vissari um mátt og vilja Guðs til þess að koma þeim sem minna mega sín að liði, ef lögmál leyfa. Ég efaðist ekki um að þessar mæðgur áttu að hittast. Það var dásamlegt fyrir mig að fá þarna tækifæri til að rétta fram hjálparhönd í gegnum hlýjar hugsanir og fullkomið traust á vilja Guðs. Við horfðumst í augu eitt andartak og hún sagði við mig:,,Elsku vina, ef ég get einhvern tíma, einhvers staðar á leið þinni í gegnum jarðlífið létt þér gönguna, þá mundu að ég á enga ósk heitari en að fá tækifæri til þess að endurgjalda þér það sem þú í einlægni gerðir fyrir mig og barnið mitt.” Síðan brosti hún gegnum tárin og hvarf sjónum mínum.
Eftir að ég kom heim hef ég oft fundið fyrir nálægð hennar, eins og hún væri að minna mig á loforð sitt. Þess vegna datt mér í hug vorið 1984 að biðja hana að hlúa að persónu, sem ég hafði verið að styðja og var mér mjög kær, en bjó yfir miklum dulrænum hæfileikum. Það er eftirtektarvert að framangreind persóna taldi sig þegar hafa orðið vara við umhyggju og kærleika þessarar látnu veru, séð hana og gat lýst henni. Skynjun okkar á þessari indíánastúlku fór því saman og var það mjög örvandi fyrir mig.
Mér er alveg ljóst að þessi frásögn mín mun ekki breyta miklu í dagfari fólks, en það er þó von mín, að það veki einhvern til umhugsunar um það að breyta rétt og kristilega. Í þessari frásögn, sem er sönn, endurspeglast það hróplega óréttlæti sem frumbyggjar Ameríku urðu fyrir af hendi hvítra manna og hvernig afleiðingar þess geta birst skyggnum augum í hinum ömurlegustu myndum löngu síðar.