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American Passages: A Literary SurveyUnit IndexAmerican Passages Home
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3. Utopian Promise   

7. Slavery and

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Activities: Author Activities

Lydia Maria Child - Author Questions

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  1. Comprehension: Consider the opening of Child's "Reply." What role do biblical quotations play in her argument against slavery? Why do you think this might have been an effective rhetorical strategy?

  2. Context: Compare Child's abolitionist arguments in her "Reply" with the rhetorical strategies developed by some of the escaped slaves who composed narrative exposès of slavery (Douglass, Jacobs, or Craft, for example). Where does Child use strategies similar to those of the ex-slaves? How is her appeal to her readers different? How does her position as a non-slave and a white woman affect her appeal?

  3. Exploration: "Mrs. Child's Reply" is part of a series of letters that Child exchanged with Governor Wise and Mrs. Mason of Virginia over the specific issue of John Brown's raid and the general question of the morality of slavery. Child's subsequent publication of the letters in pamphlet form was a great success. Why do you think Child decided to publish her argument in the form of letters between disputants rather than as a series of essays? Why do you think the collection of letters was popular with northern readers? How does Child's use of letters compare to later publications of letters, such as Amelia Clappe's "Shirley Letters"?

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