An Analysis Of Phillis Wheatley's To S. M

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In Phillis Wheatley’s To S.M., a Young African Painter, the reader can easily assume that Wheatley is expressing her opinion on the beauty of Scipio Moorhead’s paintings. The poem seems to discuss Wheatley’s appreciation for another African-American artist like herself. However, after looking closely at word choice, visual imagery, and deviation from the rhyme scheme one can see that there is much more going on in this poem. Wheatley addresses not only her thoughts on S.M.’s works, but also religion, immortality, race, and freedom. Looking at this poem more in-depth is important because it will allow the reader to better understand the poem’s meaning. Rather than focus on Wheatley’s thoughts on the works of S.M., this paper will evaluate …show more content…

is written in iambic pentameter with heroic rhyming couplets. However, there are several instances in which Wheatley deviates from her original rhyme scheme. Naturally, this makes those particular sentences stand out when reading. For instance, Wheatley writes: “And may the charms of each seraphic theme Conduct thy footsteps to immortal fame!” (lines 11-12) and calls Moorhead’s paintings “deathless glories (line 8). These lines seem to be addressing the idea of immortality through art. This debate has been around probably as long as there have been artists. It states that although the artist themselves will die, they will live on in the works they leave behind. Here, Wheatley suggests that she and S.M. must work to create an artistic legacy that will allow them to live forever. Later on, Wheatley writes: “High to the blissful wonders of the skies Elate thy soul…” (line 14). The word “elate” is a fascinating choice because it has a double meaning. While it can mean to excite, it also can mean “to lift on high, raise, elevate” (elate, v., OED). Upon first glance, the reader can say with confidence that Wheatley is discussing how S.M.’s paintings excite her soul. However, after a more in-depth analysis, Wheatley uses this specific word to relate more to the latter definition. She is referring to herself being lifted up into …show more content…

Aurora is the roman goddess of dawn (Myths Encyclopedia). Reading this the first time, it’s understandable that the reader thinks Wheatley is discussing how once in heaven she won’t be writing about Aurora anymore. However, it is striking that Wheatley would choose this particular mythological goddess. She directly pertains to the idea of light imagery. Aurora rising every morning can be considered significant in the context of this poem because it, yet again, symbolizes the fact that darkness is always followed by light. The word “radiance” is even a synonym for the word “light.” Although, another viewpoint on the choice of Aurora, is that she brings forth the sun. This is the same sun that makes Wheatley and Moorhead darker and different and, by extension, slaves. This line then could be skewed as negative. It is unclear on which analysis of the line Wheatley intended for her readers to pick up on, but either one is more significant than that of the original

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