Who Ain’t a Slave?

  • Brian R. Pellar
Part of the American Literature Readings in the 21st Century book series (ALTC)


In this chapter, Pellar discusses the commonly misunderstood proclamation of Ishmael’s, “Who ain’t a slave?” Pellar demonstrates, contrary to many critics understanding of this particular passage, that Melville was showing the reader a naïve Ishmael. Thus, Melville is telling the story of a conversion. Pellar then discusses the race/slavery subtext of the black church, “The Trap,” the whaling town of New Bedford, and the Inn that Ishmael visits. Pellar then discusses how the Southerner Bulkington’s disappearance informed the Southern moral, economic, and political perspective in the slave/whale hunt. Lastly, Pellar explores the antislavery subtext of Jonah and the whale sermon of Father Mapple, as well as Mapple’s “Cadiz” as an international symbol for the slave trade and profit.


Slave Trade Black Church Color Symbolism Interracial Friendship Human Flesh 
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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brian R. Pellar
    • 1
  1. 1.BostonUSA

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