Monday, August 29, 2011

The Sot-Weed Factor

The Sot-Weed Factor is a poem in which the speaker is traveling to America in order to begin a new life. However, the speaker quickly finds out this new life is not at all what he had in mind. I am curious about one of the first lines of the poem. The speaker states, "With heavy heart, concern'd that I/Was forc'd my Native soil to fly." Am I correct in assuming this means the speaker was required to leave his hometown to come to America? If so, I wonder what the reason was. Throughout the poem, it is made evident to the reader that the speaker thinks he is superior to everyone. For instance, the speaker is immediately critical of the planters when he first sees them, as evidenced in these lines:  "Figures so strange, no God design'd,/To be a part of Humane Kind..." I find this to be a bit harsh for the speaker to say such things about people he has never met before. The speakers arrogance is also showcased when he asks the peasant who is herding sheep if he can stay with him. The peasant begins to ask the speaker questions such as why he ran away. The speaker takes great offense to this because he considers himself above this indentured servitude and draws his sword on the peasant. If the line I questioned above is correct (the one stating the speaker was forced to leave his home), why does the speaker take such offense to the question?
Also interesting, the speaker seems to come to the new world close-minded. He immediately rejects the land and the Natives. For instance, when the speaker talks about the land he describes it as, "Planted at first, when the Vagrant Cain...he hither run." Basically, I think these lines state that this new land is the land of the devil and a harbor for fugitives. In his detest for the Natives, the speaker disrespects the Indians canoe, calling it a "trough for a swine" and standing in the canoe instead of sitting. Finally, the speaker demonstrates how unappreciative he is when the speaker stays the night with a local planter and is given dinner. The speaker speaks lowly of the food, stating, "Which scarce a hungry dog would lap." All of these people have done nothing but altruistic favors and try to help the speaker, and all he does is complain.
I think it is ironic that America is now the "melting-pot." So many different and diverse cultures, religions, races, etc. make up America's population today. The speaker in The Sot-Weed Factor comes to America to start a new life, but does little more than come with his nose in the air and fingers pointed, bringing his arrogance and superiority from Great Britain with him.

Eric Kosco

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