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The Journal of English Language and Literature , Vol.67, No.1, 173 ~ 184, 2021
“Living Black Water”: Literary Representation of the Southern Swamp in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp
Jieun Park
This paper analyzes the significance of the swamp as the central setting in Harriet Beecher Stowe’s second anti-slavery novel Dred: A Tale of the Great Dismal Swamp. Often overlooked by critics is the importance of the swamp and its symbolic meaning in the novel. By presenting a brief survey of the understanding and rendering of swamp images in nineteenth century America, this paper further examines the change of setting from the domestic spaces of Uncle Tom’s Cabin to the deserted wilderness that reflects Stowe’s desire to depart from the shadow of her previous success. The swamp, which is simultaneously neither land nor water and both land and water, highlights Dred’s fugitive status as a runaway slave and also Stowe’s own ambivalence as a writer in the age of violent sectional conflicts. Examining the significance of Dred’s swamp images and symbolism will provide a way to follow Stowe’s departure from her first success and help to analyze the author’s desire to attempt new approaches that would allow for a fuller development of multiple perspectives. The swamp in the novel is a reservoir of both pollution and vital energy, full of ambiguities and possibilities. It hence defies any categorization or fixed definitions. The Great Dismal Swamp in Dred remains a site of possibilities, of vital exuberance and growth, and yet it is not a realized dream. By foregrounding the Great Dismal Swamp as the setting of her new novel, Stowe suggests it as a site wherein to negotiate the “orthodox” truth of racism and anti-slavery discourses.
Key Words
Harriet Beecher Stowe, Dred, fugitive, swamp, wetland
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