It's an honorable choice: Rebellions Against Southern Honor in William Styron's The Confessions of Nat Turner

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Title: It's an honorable choice: Rebellions Against Southern Honor in William Styron's The Confessions of Nat Turner
Author: Harrell, Laura Allison
Advisors: Dr. Allen Stein, Committee Member
Dr. Anne Baker, Committee Member
Dr. Michael Grimwood, Committee Chair
Abstract: When Bertram Wyatt-Brown published Southern Honor: Ethics and Behavior in the Old South in 1982, he established honor as a key to understanding the culture, of the antebellum South, and created a new anthropological framework for analyzing Southern patterns of conduct. This essay describes, through the lens of honor, the attempts of Nat Turner and Margaret Whitehead to rebel against the patriarchal code of Southern honor, and explores their failures to subvert the rigid assumptions of the prevailing system. Disrespected, mistreated, and enslaved, Nat wishes to disrupt the perpetual social system of white honor and black deference; he uses his literacy and the patriarchal models of the Old Testament and his father to rebel against his social condition and to sustain his plan for insurrection and eventual liberation. Emotionally distant from the patriarchal authority of her brother and the influence of her mother, unable to communicate freely with her peers or family, and distraught and torn by her socially unacceptable belief that slavery should be abolished, Margaret rebels against these socially imposed controls and ideologically commits herself to her convictions about equality, tolerance, and Christian love. Though both Nat and Margaret actively rebel against the existing honor system, they fail to consider the influence of the public sphere. This failure to identify the public perceptions of various social communities results in the collapse of Nat’s and Margaret’s rebellions, and it contributes to their eventual deaths.
Date: 2009-12-04
Degree: MA
Discipline: English
URI: http://www.lib.ncsu.edu/resolver/1840.16/2614


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