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While assembling a research paper the author has to make a decision on how much of an influence they want their personal thoughts and feelings to have. On one side the author could choose to remain as objective as possible and present the facts and events in a way that allows the reader to formulate their own thoughts and opinions. The opposite end of the spectrum is the author using their personal beliefs to present information in such a way as to lead their readership to a particular conclusion. The author of “Sugar in the Blood”, Andrea Stuart chose the latter as her mode for displaying her findings. Stuart uses her personal feelings and connection with her findings to create a compelling argument that leads readers to feel sympathetic if not borderline infuriated. The overall nature of this piece speaks strongly of the nature of personal bias aiding in the creation of persuasive arguments.
The underlying social criticism in “Sugar in the Blood” is very obviously the concept of whiteness. “Whiteness became associated with social superiority and blackness with poverty and inferiority.” (Stuart, 87). Stuart does not tread lightly around this topic and it becomes very apparent how strongly she feels about the racial roles that were assigned in Barbados during the 17th century. The most interesting part of Stuart’s argument is not the concept of whiteness itself as that has been covered countless times in various fields of study, but the explanation of the process in which whiteness originated in this particular society. “The first thing to establish is that whiteness has no stable consensual meaning, and has been conceptualized in a number of different yet not mutually exclusive forms. As much as anything, it is a lens through which particular aspects of social relationships can be apprehended.” (Garner, 1). The concept of whiteness is not a universal term and a single definition cannot be used for every unique environment and situation. Whiteness is a blanket term typically used to reference the preferential treatment that white people receive when compared with members of another skin colour. “If the Barbadians helped to invent the concept of whiteness and the privileges intrinsically connected with it, they also by extension helped to invent blackness and its associated disadvantages.” (Stuart, 86). Stuart’s particular research focused more on the black members of society and the parallel concept of blackness in order to put an emphasis on the treatment that these people had to endure.
Arguably the most important points that Stuart made conveyed the message that slaves were not just forced laborers, they were less than people and their mistreatment wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. “Thus the slaves’ journey to the New World ended as it had begun: in a welter of grief, fear and horror. For those who were not purchased, because of ill health or old age, the end of the story was even worse. They were often thrown overboard, and some jumped to their deaths in order to avoid further suffering.” (Stuart, 89). These lines describing life on-board the slave transport ships come the closest to accurately displaying how poor the treatment of these slaves actually was and this was only the first part of their journey into slavery. Taken out of context this passage could be used to describe sick animals being put down when they were not good enough for sale.
The overall flow of this paper is influenced by Stuart’s deep connection with the Barbadian people for whom the paper focuses on. This connection adds obvious passion to her writing and the facts are presented in a way that leaves very little to reader interpretation. One could argue that although this style of argument is compelling, it does not give the readership an accurate representation of events as the facts and depictions of the events that occurred are only told from one viewpoint. Throughout Stuart’s paper there are a number of well off slave owners that are interviewed, primarily focusing on the Ashby family. While could consider this an example of the story being told from another viewpoint, the actual information and quotes that are being presented almost exclusively paint the slave owners in a negative context. Stuart commonly uses the names and ages of young women to further emphasize the damage done to these slaves at the hands of the slave owners. This technique is used by other writers with similar narrative goals for the same purpose of humanizing the victims. “When I met Siri, she had just crossed the invisible line between resistance and submission. Though only fifteen she reconciled to life as a prostitute.” (Bales, 63). Kevin bales writes very similarly in “Because she looks like a child” for the almost identical purpose of humanizing Siri, a girl who is involved in modern day sexual slavery. Using the names and personal details of the subjects provokes a reaction that is far more emotional and potentially sympathetic from the readership. Although the same information can be conveyed from a neutral point of view by leaving personal details out of the paper, this particular involved style of writing attempts reinforce its argument by building a personal connection with the reader.
In contrast to this involved style of writing, is an argument primarily populated by neutrally presented facts leaving the argument up the interpretation of the reader. While this style may lack the passionate themes and as a whole appear less convincing, it allows the reader to come to their own conclusions and the outcome could be considered more concrete. “The existence and content of the folk tales and secular songs can be interpreted in many ways.” (Blassingame, 129). John Blassingame proceeds to include the various interpretations of these tales from a variety of viewpoints that would be considered opposing sides.
Despite the contrasting nature of the two different argument styles both have merits in their own way and both could be considered convincing. Stuart’s argument is openly influenced by her connection to her subjects yet for the overall purpose of her argument this influence adds value by infusing her research with a passion that appeals to readers. While the same argument could be made in a strictly neutral fashion and eventually lead readers to the same conclusion, Stuart humanizes her subjects and attempts to produce genuine empathy from her readers towards the subjects.
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