So, Spofford:

As M pointed out, lulling the beast misidentifies the real threat and is a distraction. This has much to do with how Spofford confuses the literal and the figurative.

As L pointed out, the protagonist sings in order to appease the beast. She’s not singing for herself, but finding her voice in the throes of intense opposition. The experience of captivity is rich and Eden-like.

As D pointed out, pacifying, Christianizing, and then shooting the beast could represent the European encounter with aboriginal peoples.

But then how do we read the panther? As a literal animal instantly made metaphorical (beast, Indian Devil) and then potentially made allegorical (an uncivilized heathen in need of the word of God or, when that fails, a bullet)?

And the ending? Is this a cringe-worthy and racist ending? On the one hand, this is a revenge of the literal. But on the other hand, those responsible for destruction are only partly present: they are synecdoches (“Tomahawk and scalping-knife,” walking weapons, or a “foot-print,” the trace of a person). Have any of you seen the film American History X? Think of that ending: what happens when very particular circumstances end up reaffirming stereotypes?

If Apess’ essay hopes to provide “a looking-glass” (that is, a mirror) “for the white man,” then what sort of looking-glass is being used in Spofford’s story? In order for us to consider this story an allegory for “female creativity” (from the intro), then one has to be ready to distort the other in a variety of ways. Can we ever get around this?

Look at how nefarious and troubling authorship is…


(Image source)


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