Although blacks won freedom from slavery at the end of the Civil War, they were in all effect still second class citizens. Segregation was still in place and the community lived in exclusive ghettoes. In this vein, Battle Pieces ties into Frederick Douglass’ narrative on black oppression. Even in the Civil War blacks lost more lives in relation to the proportion of white fatalities. Hence Melville places the narrative of slavery within the larger discourse on war. Given Melville’s expansive philosophy and world view, we also find poems that felicitate and celebrate noble virtues of war. These include valor of men, their martyrdom, the ardor of battle and the adversities that are encountered.
In conclusion, 19th century American literature is a mosaic of viewpoints, politics and philosophies. This diversity is a sign of health of the literature of the era, which played a role in shaping public discourse. The three works perused for this essay deal with three different issues. Yet there is no contradiction among them. To the contrary, they complement one another very well. In their synthesis they stand for an encompassing social comment that has had an influence on the historical course of the nation. Their works are relevant even today, for, when we look closely at pressing contemporary issues in America, they are essentially the residues and reverberations of the concerns raised by these authors.
Douglass Frederick. What to the Slave is the Fourth of July. First published in 1852. n. d. Print.
Fuller, Margaret (1843). “The Great Lawsuit. Man versus Men. Woman versus Women.'”. The Essential Margaret Fuller (New Jersey: Rutgers University Press, 1992.)
Melville, Herman. Battle Pieces and Aspects of the War, first published by Harper Bros, New York, 1866. Print.