Why does Zong! look like that?

When I first opened the Zong! document I thought that I had broken my computer. At first glance, the structure is shocking. And like any other shocking element in literature, there’s a reason for it. I thought that the format was representative of the way a slave would have spoken. Coming from a foreign country and not knowing English / being deprived of the opportunity to become literate, a slave during this period might have spoken in sentence fragments like this. However, these “sentences” seem to be more chaotic. In the essay, Philip explains her clever tricks. Her approach was to choose words randomly, similar to the way that the slaves were chosen, which she describes as, “selected randomly then thrown together hoping that something would come of it.” Then I began to connect the dots between the words and the meaning. The words themselves represent each of the slaves. The large gaps of space represent the space that the slaves needed in the boat. Philip mentions that she tried to do research to get the names of the slaves on the boat and was devastated to find out that records were not kept of that. These humans were stripped of their names and therefore part of their story. Philip, in response, strips us of their story by “not telling it”. 

This is a story that needs to be told and Philip addresses that multiple times, but it is apparent that something is being held back. She says, “But this is a story that can only be told by not telling, and how am i to not tell the story has to be told.” This is where I get confused. She produced these poems in effort to tell the story. It is chaotic and mysterious, but it is not clear. So we know that she is not telling the story because in her eyes it cannot be told, but why, considering she explains the story in the essay?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s