The Longest Memory by Fred D'Aguiar is a compelling and tragically poignant novel set in Virginia, 1810. The unique, fragmented narrations with its ironies and bigoted criticisms lurking in the words of many presents a definite ethical vision in which the reader commiserates with the suffering and feels contempt for the savage. The calamity of the story and also its main ironic element centres on an old, veteran slave Whitechapel. He inadvertently causes the death of his son Chapel in the hands of the overseer of the plantation, who just so happens to be Chapel's halfbrother. Prejudice shatters any faith of justice, equality and freedom in The Longest Memory, and acts to enhance the immorality of slavery and the horrible suffering of slaves. This is achieved through both the emphatic characterisations of the slaves, and tragedy of Chapel's death.
Societal prejudice towards Negroes has been a widespread fact in American history.
The class of slaves has been superficially judged and discriminated against.
'It is neither extraordinary to beat a slave, nor incompatible with Christianity to wield a whip.'
Even those who considered themselves lenient slaveowners such as Mr Whitechapel, committed horrible acts of injustice.
I repeat, do not let me ever catch you reading
Again. If you do you will be sent away,
Far away to a place where slave boys
Die of hunger, hard work and the whip.'
All slaves have to learn to accept the fact that they are inferior. However, from some people's points of views, slaves are much lower and should be considered as an investment or commodity. 'Cattle need fattening, not slaves.'
They are regarded on a totally different plane of judgement.
'I told my son that we are different from slaves in intelligence and human standing before God.'
Verbal irony also...