In the context of thinking about the “vastness” of the transatlantic slave trade, what do you think was the figurative significance of the worm?
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The transatlantic slave trade influenced all the aspects of the white Americans and African Americans’ lives in the 18th century because it became the significant social and economic phenomenon in the history of the country (Dramaturgy Packet 2015: 17-18). In her play The Liquid Plain, Naomi Wallace discussed the idea of the transatlantic slave trade from the personal perspective of several characters in a vivid metaphorical language (Wallace 2013: 54).
Thus, the concept of “vastness” of the transatlantic slave trade is accentuated in each detail of the characters’ life, and it is metaphorically emphasized in the image of a Guinea worm that usually actively parasitizes and aims to occupy more flesh as slavery aimed to occupy more territories and people.
It is possible to discuss the figurative significance of the worm described in the play from several perspectives. On the one hand, the Guinea worm symbolizes the slavery that captured all the aspects of the peoples’ lives with the focus on the personal feelings of slaves and ambitious desires and intentions of slave owners and traders. In her play, Wallace tells the story of several characters that were injured by slavery.
Thus, the inner pain of the black slaves come from different places is associated with the pain of a man who has a Guinea worm in his leg (Wallace 2013: 54). The problem is in the fact that slavery seems to have no ends and boundaries, and it is extremely painful for all persons involved in the process (Williams presentation, January 09, 2015).
Slavery is based on the idea of capturing and gaining more: black people, resources, and lands (Dramaturgy Packet 2015: 34-35). In this context, it is possible to speak about the “vastness” of the transatlantic slave trade as a result of traders’ parasitizing activities.
On the other hand, the Guinea worm symbolizes the greed associated with the transatlantic slave trade that leads to ruining the lives of more blacks and to spreading slavery as the epidemics. Blacks in Wallace’s play tell many dramatic stories about the aspects of their life, and slavery as the Guinea worm seems to poison each moment of their days full of the pain. Now, the Guinea worm is eating the leg of the white man as the slave trade was slowly ruining the lives of thousands of blacks.
Some researchers note that white slave owners and traders sometimes became aware of the consequences of their actions for the lives of thousands of black people, and the feeling of guilt could capture their heart as the Guinea worm captured the flesh of the white character in the play (Dramaturgy Packet 2015: 34-35; Williams presentation, January 09, 2015). In this context, the “vastness” of the transatlantic slave trade is also associated with the limits of the people’s consciousness.
From this point, in her play, Naomi Wallace tried to find the answers to provocative questions about the history of the transatlantic slave trade. Furthermore, she presented her vision of the problems of the slave trade in the most figurative manner, and she masterly used the symbol of the Guinea worm to accentuate the parasitizing nature of slavery. Therefore, the play written by Naomi Wallace can be discussed as the metaphorical and vivid illustration of the problem of the transatlantic slave trade in the history of the country.
Dramaturgy Packet for the Winter 2015 Production of “The Liquid Plain” by Naomi Wallace. Irvine: UC Irvine School of Social Sciences, 2015. Print.
Wallace, Naomi. The Liquid Plain. Oregon: Oregon Shakespeare Festival, 2013. Print.
Williams, Jaye Austin. “Drama Panel on Play “The Liquid Plain”. UC Irvine School of Social Sciences. Irvine, California. 2015. Lecture.