In a few short lines, the poem "On Being Brought from Africa to America" juxtaposes religious language with the institution of slavery, to touch on the ideas of equality, salvation, and liberty. Phillis Wheatley uses several literary elements to convey her complex but succinct message to the reader, and understanding those methods is vital to grappling with the poem. This interactive teaching plan will help students further grasp the concepts involved in Wheatley's poetry, examining the themes, symbols, and vocabulary she used.
On Being Brought from Africa to America analysis - Phillis Wheatley poem
Each line of the poem contains religious words to subtly convey the speaker’s tone, attitudes, or beliefs. The repetition clearly fixes religion as a central theme of the poem's major themes. She informs the reader how she was saved and the implications.
A recurring structure in the poem is Wheatley’s use of capitalized italics to emphasize words. She uses them for “Pagan”, “Savior”, “Christians”, “Negros”, and “Cain”. These words contribute to the poem’s strong contrasting imagery between light and darkness.