Arteries of the Nation

Anissa Janine Wardi

in Water and African American Memory

Published by University Press of Florida

Published in print November 2011 | ISBN: 9780813037455
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780813042343 | DOI:
Arteries of the Nation

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This chapter reads rivers as a synecdoche of the nation. Historically, rivers were both arteries of the slave trade and conduits to freedom, as their surrounding geographies determined such conditions. While danger is part of the larger conceptualization of the rivers, the catharsis provided by these rushing waters is unmistakable. Thus, the chapter examines the sanctuary that the Ohio and the Mississippi offer, identifying rivers as spaces of absolution and spiritual healing. Particular focus is placed on Toni Morrison's Beloved and Henry Dumas' “Ark of Bones,” as the Atlantic Ocean morphs into the rivers Mississippi and Ohio.

Keywords: Toni Morrison; Beloved; Henry Dumas; Ark of Bones; Ohio River; Mississippi River; Middle Passage

Chapter.  8534 words. 

Subjects: Literature

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