Jack Lyons Unit 4 Post 2

The beauty of this illustration is in how it portrays the desolation and fear accompanied with this scene without embellishing any elements or making a caricature of any particular figure. It manages to heighten the already enormous fear of going to the penitentiary without providing any dialogue or any disturbing depictions. It shows the seeming impunity that the government can operate with; doing the right thing in the face of this authority will not guarantee any mercy: they OWN you. This is where the somewhat hidden rhetorical devices begin to shine. Written on the back of the bus carrying the prisoners reads “Property of the State of Mississippi” as if the prisoners are owned. They are no longer individuals. In a way, this can be seen as a connection to the enslavement of African-Americans. This allows the reader to draw the connection of slavery a hundred and fifty years ago, to the mass incarceration and corrupt prison system in the US today. Some would even argue that it is a direct continuation of the system of chattel slavery in the US. Also, the fact that there is an enormous and completely lifeless expanse past the gates conjures up a vision of Hell. There is no life here, only a wicked authority that acts with unspeakable acts of cruelty: “Parchman was the stuff of legends — dark legends”. Some ducks in a pond can be seen in the bottom right corner, free to do as they please just outside the penitentiary, and there are even small human figures, presumably guards, smoking cigarettes carrying their guns relaxed and without a care in the world. Then, just past the barbwire and chainlink fence, there is a guard tower with rifles on the lookout. Two pages later one of the guards tells them, “ain’t no newspapermen out here”. This is particularly poignant because it illustrates how immune this authority is. No one can recount the suffering, no one can hold them accountable, and it is desolate and lifeless in its enormity. The penitentiary is even nicknamed “Parchman Farm”. This nickname is perhaps an illusion to a plantation. It is where they will not only beat and torture the prisoners, but they will also work for the state, hence it is a “Farm”. This reinforces the earlier theme of these prisoners being “Property of the State of Mississippi”, and therefore their labor is as well.

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