The Longest Memory – Fred D’Aguiar The Longest Memory is a novel by Fred D’Aguiar, which has many different underlying themes and ideas communicated through it, but all relating back to two main themes of the book. These themes are Racial Superiority and the opposing ideas of Slavery and Christian Values. The date in which this novel is set (early eighteenth century) was a brutal and a seemingly amoral time. The white population at that time had deemed it just to enslave African peoples, whom they had caught or lured onto slave ships and brought back to America.
In 1861, there were 15 slave states, which agreed and consented towards enslavement. There were many arguments for and against enslavement. Most of the reasons for enslavement came back to the one idea that the African race was lesser, or more primitive, than the white people who populated America at the time. People deemed it just and rightful that they can enslave them, whip them, beat them and still be seen as a morally just and Christian human being.
Many people thought that no matter how wrongfully they treated the slaves, they would felt no guilt, nor regret, as they justified it with themselves that the race was nothing more than stock, so they may be treated as such. Animals back in those days were sometimes treated and fed better than the slaves. Many of the people who owned, or were a part of the slave concept, were not in any moral remorse, as they did not see what they were doing as erroneous. They did not see how their acts in slavery may collide with their morals and Christian Values.
It is seen that much of the population at that time were not in any obligation to treat these slaves as more than stock, as the African slaves were, in their eyes, inferior. It was an untouched subject by much of the white population, that their actions about slavery and their support for it conflicted with their values and morals, as a Christian person. They did not see the wrong or immoral aspect of their actions. Many were oblivious to the error in their ways, but many saw the unethical aspects of their actions, but chose to remain ignorant.
A quote, which shows how people chose to become ignorant of the circumstances, can be found in the chapter ‘The Virginian’. It reads: “It should not be possible to treat a slave with Christian fairness and instruct him in the Christian faith as a just substitute for his pagan practices, without mollifying the relationship between master and slave. It has to be. Otherwise Christianity would not be able to spread. Otherwise the African would be deemed our equal simply because he shared out faith in one God and the Afterlife. We both know of the above to be false because of the evidence of how Africans live in their Primitive Land. (p. 111) The idea of race suggests that observed differences in cultural and social status are the product of biologically based differences among major ethnic groups. Out of that distinction the idea of racial superiority was evolved. In the majority of the population’s eyes at that time, the African race was inferior. They were seen as primitive and un-evolved. This was also another justification for the white populations, to both the governments, to uphold slavery as it was seen as a part of nature, and it also justified the idea to themselves.
It was an excuse and a rationalisation for their actions, and an explanation to their own morals and Christian values. D’Aguiar also, in his novel, uses techniques to further explain his story and themes. He uses techniques such as looking from each different character’s point of view, and showing their thoughts, feelings and expressions to express different themes. He also uses editorials and diary entries to further explain these themes and also to give a deeper sense of thought to it. The ‘slave’ era in our history is that of a dark period, where many brutal and immoral actions were to take place.
The Longest Memory uses many different techniques, characters and themes to show how thoughts and points of view may differ from person to person and also how different races, in those times, were treated, how they felt about being treated that way, and what many of them did to escape from it. Quotes: -“We are different from the slaves in intelligence and human standing before God” -“They need to be treated as subjects of God, though blessed with lesser faculties, and therefore suited to the trade of slavery. ” -“Our line of work is slaves, we can’t change the fact. We do it the way we think best serves our investment. ”