Jim's Reviews > The Confessions of Nat Turner

The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron
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's review
Jan 08, 2017

it was ok
bookshelves: biography, historical, 1paper, 2sortof_nonfiction

I'm tempted to give this 1 star, but it does hold some historical perspectives that are worth reading. Just be aware that Styron twisted some facets of history around & subscribed unsupportable motivations to Turner, a religious fanatic & a lunatic, by his own words to Thomas Ruffin Gray. Gray was the lawyer who sat down with Turner while he was awaiting execution & wrote the first 'Confessions'. It's available as a free download & should be read by anyone who reads this book, preferably before it so you don't get sucked in & fooled.
( http://digitalcommons.unl.edu/cgi/vie... )

Turner thought himself destined for great things due to visions that he ascribed to his god & filtered through a distorted religion. His twisted confession is a chilling look at life through the eyes of a serial killer, a seriously deranged man. His 'rebellion', actually a wild killing spree without any other real purpose. They killed at least 10 men, 14 women, and 31 infants and children. His name should go down in history along side the likes of Hitler, Jim Jones & David Berkowitz - nut job murderers.

Unfortunately, Styron's fictional account tends to excuse many of Turner's actions & even shows him in a heroic light. I don't see how this obviously intelligent & charismatic man (Turner) could have so badly bungled a true rebellion. His confession to Gray tells us that he was directed by the holy spirit toward some sort of judgment day. It reads nothing like a man who wanted his physical freedom (he'd escaped & come back on his own, unlike his father who escaped & never returned) but more like a deranged man aiming for a baptism in blood.

Reading some history on the reprisals that took place after this 'rebellion' makes for even more chilling reading. The immediate executions & beatings were horrible, but the effects on the anti-slave movement were devastating. Turner managed to destroy the growing sentiment that Jefferson had worked so hard to bring about & finally seemed to be coming to fruition in VA.
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03/04/2016 marked as: read

Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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message 1: by Jim (new) - rated it 2 stars

Jim According to several emails I've gotten, I'm an atheist & a bigot, unable to see how society drove Turner to his atrocities.

Turner condoned the killings of 31 infants & children. Even if, by his own account, he was too inept to kill anyone except one young woman, he still is responsible. (I believe she was his third attempt at murder.) I have absolutely no respect for those who can overlook - whether through inattention or intentional ignorance - such costs, either.

I've edited my review to include a link to the original 'Confessions'. It's short, originally a pamphlet, only a dozen printed pages & well worth reading.

message 2: by Werner (new)

Werner Jim, I completely agree with you! I'm reminded of the aftermath of the terrorist bombings on 9/11/01, when a few pundits suggested that the atrocity was excusable (or at least mitigated) because the Palestinians are oppressed underdogs. Someone (I forget who), made the simple point in rebuttal that oppressed people and their sympathizers have the same moral obligations as the rest of us --one of which is to not murder innocent people.

message 3: by Petra Eggs (new)

Petra Eggs I hate the excusing of one's favoured group's crimes. I hate it even more when the media push it - the BBC always excuses Palestinian crimes, if it even bothers reporting them.

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