Racial Stereotypes In Poe's Poe
Can we assume that Poe wasn't racist? He grew up in Richmond, around people who did have slaves, and it seems like Poe did share some notions of racial order and white supremacy. He promoted racist stereotypes in depicting black servants like his Jupiters, that he complicated these stereotypes with disguised, rebellious implications. This gives his story's peculiar relevance to the task of historicizing racial attitudes in the antebellum nation. Was Poe a blatant pro-slavery advocate, someone who avoided racial politics, someone who hoped slavery would just disappear or was he an ideological opportunist? Were his views on race extreme or unusual? Overtly, in stories like The Gold-Bug, The Journal of Julius Rodman, and The Narrative of Arthur Gordon Pym, and hidden in his words in stories like The Black Cat and Hop-Frog, Poe alternately imitate and demonize race, but he also often endowed such figures with shrewdness and resourcefulness, at times portraying their defiance as inevitable and even understandable. In Romancing the Shadow, leading interpreters of 19th-century American literature and culture debate Poe's role in inventing the African of the white imagination. Their readings represent an array of positions, and while they reflect some consensus about Poe's investment in racialized types and tropes, they also testify to the surprising ways that race embedded itself in his work, and the diverse conclusions that can be drawn from them. So, Freimarck and Rosenthal said about Poe: ''Stated briefly, the views of these men [writers] were that blacks were biologically inferior and, since all cultures were founded on the institution of slavery (i.e., ''wage slavery'' in the North or in Europe), the only question for a society to answer was what type of slavery it would have. Negro slavery was thus seen to be highly desirable, since it united political law with biological law. To this view, Poe was totally committed.