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D'Aguiar's central purpose is to make us reflect upon American society during the slavery era and to acknowledge its realities so that we understand the capability for evil that exists in society. D'Aguair has used Whitechapel and his memories to encapsulate the brutality and inhumanity of slavery. The succeeding narratives further our understanding of the society and these are presented in a manner that forces the reader to accept D'Aguiar's judgements. The characters represent all of the voices of the society including people from different races, social status's and both genders so that the reader can see the position society imposed upon all citizens. The forms of the individual narratives help us to understand the reality of society because they allow the characters to emerge as individuals, telling their own stories with undisguised honesty. The Longest Memory is told from the oldest to the youngest character showing how society instilled its ideals on each generation in an uncompromising manner and so the stories overlap and intertwine, to illustrate this D'Aguiar has used an overwhelming tone of sadness and despair to emphasise the negative feelings that society created.
Whitechapel's narrative focuses on the symbolism of seeing; the reason for this is to give the reader a sense of the extent to which society enforced its beliefs upon people and how much it effected them. Whitechapel has lived a very long time and has finally realized the truth about his enslavement and the extent to which he is dehumanized; this is emphasized by his regretful tone and demonstrates his disgust. The dehumanisation that has occurred is over his philosophies that as a slave he could earn respect through hard work and loyalty; this is rejected when his son is killed. The repetition of the phrase, 'I am nobody'; acknowledges that as a slave the society could not reward his loyalty or hard work because he had no status.
Various narratives have been put after each other so that the reader can compare two characters to see the different impacts that society had on them. This Juxtaposition is used to confront the reader with the inhumanity of the views of some characters such as Sanders Senior, the placement of Cook straight after shows that contrary to Sanders seniors disgusting beliefs she is quite human and is dramatically effected by his beliefs, the societies beliefs.
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The Longest Memory is structured as an arrangement of separate narratives. D'Aguair has done this so that society is recreated in a way that encapsulates the reader in the lives of these characters; these narratives are used to voice the opinions of the voices of society. The voices have been used so that the opinions of everyone can be given so that the themes that D'Aguiar presents are easy to agree to.
D'Aguiar has used different forms as a means of revealing the characters and challenging the society ethics by the recreation of the era in a way that convinces the reader that the characters are real. Forms of characters such as the slaves are presented in a way that allows D'Aguiar to dispute popular beliefs of the slavers that slaves weren't people, Whitechapels and Cook's interior monologue and Chapels poem. These forms are also used to show that unlike there beliefs white people were not as intelligent as they pretended to be, Sanders Seniors diary has been used to show his intelligence or lack of by showing his apparent inability to write properly and confidently, short entries small words.
Ironies have been used in the novel to force the reader to see D'Aguiars opinion on the society, and it makes us agree with his views. The ironies realized by Whitechapel about the true nature of society confronts the reader with a very strong sense of repression which in the democracies of today is unthinkable, because of the length of time for him to finally see what the truth was.
D'Aguiar has used the technique of 'Repetition of an event'; to force the reader to see the different points of view that they have on the particular event, in this case the death of Chapel which every character bar Cook Chapel's mum reflects upon.