Complete Analysis of “Native Guard” by Natasha Trethewey With an attempt to deliver a thematically colorful account of her complex origins and testimonies of racial struggles in the South, Natasha Trethewey embarks on a journey with verses that eloquently attest and authenticate the substance of a buried history…
The poem profoundly conveys her heart for the blacks in rich voice texture and images of truths concerning the battles not only against slavery for the fellow blacks but even with the unsettled issue of freedom that appears detached from the desired racial equality. “Native Guard” begins with an epigraph attributed to the 19th century social reformer and statesman Frederick Douglass stating “... if this war is to be forgotten, I ask in the name of all things sacred what shall men remember?” in reference to the Civil War which Trethewey revitalizes with her literary design. Utilizing ten stanzas each bearing distinct date, the poet pays tribute to one member of the Louisiana Native Guards being “the first officially sanctioned regiment of black soldiers in the Union Army.” With reference to the first line where the speaker expresses ”Truth be told, I do not want to forget”, the native guard himself is shown to have gathered to his sensibility an essential contemplation of the past, adding “…I thought to carry with me / want of freedom though I had been freed, / remembrance not constant recollection…”. ...
s and ends with a memory wherein the last line of each sonnet becomes a variant of the subsequent sonnet's opening line, as in a meaningful chronology of historical events. Since “Native Guard” is a first-person narrative supposedly by an unnamed ex-slave in an all-black regiment of the Union Army, the lines can be observed to possess stately approach to language and structure. Within the poem’s context is the presence of circularity depicting circumstantial shifts as one finds the former slave guarding the imprisoned inside the Union fort at Mississippi’s Ship Island. Comparing his personal life in relation to his professional life as a military officer who look after welfare of the fallen rebels, he states – I now use ink to keep record, a closed book, not the lure of memory — flawed, changeful — that dulls the lash for the master, sharpens it for the slave. For the slave, having a master sharpens the bend into work, the way the sergeant moves us now to perfect battalion drill, dress parade. Trethewey’s style of writing in “Native Guard” is characteristic of a speaker’s tone or at least, a sound representative of the way speech is made in the culture or group the narrator has become a part of. Like journal entries, the words are phrased and constructed in a manner that indirectly yet effectively states the type of sentiments involved and along the following lines, the bitterness may be sensed with the drop of the last two words – …We’re called supply units - not infantry – and so we dig trenches, haul burdens for the army no less heavy than before. I heard the Colonel call it Nigger work… Often, the work celebrates not only the factual details which history is not made to confront or disclose but also the most excruciating truths that ...
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