chapter  13
10 Pages

Driven By Darkness, Drawn By Light

The Progression of Faith in the Poetry of John Greenleaf Whittier
ByWilliam Jolliff

John Greenleaf Whittier was one of the most widely published American poets of the nineteenth century, and he was arguably the most important American Quaker writer of his time. Although he is no longer considered an artist of the first rank, his contributions to the history of American literature and the history of the American conscience retain significance. It testifies to his excellence that even with the explosion of the American literary canon, Whittier, a white male traditionalist from New England, still captures a few moments in the typical college survey. A further degree down the scale of evil in Whittier's understanding of slavery was the betrayal of the truth, and the intentional misrepresentation of the Divine nature, by those who most clearly should have known better and taught otherwise: Christian leaders. While they give us no further definition of evil, they do suggest an idea of evil's opposite, the light that would draw Whittier forward.