My Great Grandfather's Slaves Poem Analysis

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Wendell Berry’s poem, "My Great-Grandfather’s Slaves”, details his emotional enslavement to and relentless guilt about his great-grandfather’s slaves. He is extremely remorseful because his own family owned and mistreated other people. Berry feels personally connected to and responsible for the slaves. His shame is evident through his usage of literary devices like metaphors, irony, repetition, and juxtaposition. Berry’s powerful poem captures his true shame and emotional turmoil. Berry ends the poem on a powerful note. “I am owned by the blood of all of them…we cannot be free of each other,” Berry feels a strong bond to the slaves. The connection transcends family, and Berry uses blood to portray his emotional struggles. The use of irony, a descendant of a slave owner not feel enslaved to the slaves themselves, doubles as a metaphor. Not only is he united to the feelings and struggles of the slaves on a deep level, but the metaphor of blood also refers to his family. He is forever haunted by the choices and history of his “blood,” or grandpa. Berry was born into an unbreakable bond. Throughout the entirety of the poem, he refers back to his link with the slaves. “I see them going in the longs days over the same fields that I have gone…I see them moving in the rooms of my history…from their lives to mine,” Berry evokes imagery to strengthen his ending metaphor. He paints a vivid picture of the bond he shares with the slaves. They both lived and worked in the same
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