"A Mark For Them All To...Hiss At"
in the Conversion Narrative of William Apess
W hereas critics have devoted much attention to Olaudah Equiano's narrative and his vexed use of Protestantism to promote antiracism, they have accorded relatively little attention to the conversion narrative of William Apess, a Pequot Indian who led the only successful Indian revolt in New England prior to 1850. 1 One possible reason for the paucity of Apess scholarship is that, unlike Equiano who focused some of his narrative on non-Christian matters, Apess's use of Protestant rhetoric is pervasive and unabashed. Notes Arnold Krupat, one of the few critics to assess his work, "the voice of Protestant rhetoric that sounds everywhere in Apes's 2 text seems to mirror very closely a voice to be heard commonly in the early nineteenth century, the voice of what I call... salvationism" ( Voice, 144). For Krupat, salvationism is "a dialect of aggressive Protestantism" and "the discursive equivalent of a glass trained on Heaven through which all this world must be seen" (142). By inculcating this Euro- American rhetoric so completely, claims Krupat, Apess eliminates any possible inclusion of nonwhite or native voices in his work and in turn "proclaims a sense of self,...deriving entirely from Christian culture" (145).
Although his concern with Apess may be unique, Krupat's position on the concepts of ethnicity, culture, and (by extension) nationality is not uncommon. His view falls into a larger, popular trend among cultural critics that Paul Gilroy