When I first picked up Middle Passage, I was struck by an odd sense of familiarity, for having read "Benito Cereno" that same year, I immediately noted a connection to Melville. I became curious to determine not only the nature of that connection but also how an analysis of it might enhance an understanding of Johnson's text. I asked myself: "Why does Johnson deliberately choose to retell Melville?" A few reasons immediately suggested themselves: because Melville represents the canon of classic American literature and because he is an American writer who has adopted the 'European perspective of the empire. Moreover, Charles Johnson, in telling the story from the point of view of a freed slave, is trying to revise a portion of the canon of slave narratives, and, by doing so, construct an alternate view of American history as well as an alternate history of American literature.
English Language and Literature
Palencia '94, Rachel, "Demythifying Melville: Charles Johnson's Middle Passage and the Nightmare of Slavery" (1994). Honors Projects. Paper 11.