The poem „The Slave Auction“ by Frances E.W. Harper deals with the cruel handling with slaves on a slave auction.
„The Slave Auction“ consists of twentyfour verses. It is not divided into stanzas, but it can be divided into two parts. The first part is from verse one to sixteen, the second one from verse seventeen to the end.
In both parts the rhyme scheme is regular and based on an alternate rhyme (abab). The subject of the first part is the slave auction, the second part deals with a demand from the narrator to the readers. The poet discribes that „tyrants“ (l. 8 ) buy slaves and are not interested in the fact that they destroy families and hopes. Harper uses several stylistic devices and figurative language. One stylistic device in this poem is the repetition of the word „anguish“. He repeats this word several times (ll. 4, 12, 19). It stresses the aspect that the slaves really had a bad life without any kind of happiness. Also the repetition of „rudely“ (ll. 20, 22) raises the tension.Another stylistic device is the anaphora „and“ (ll. 5, 9, 13). Mothers, women and men – all of them hit the fact that the slaves are sold. But the most important stylistic device in this poem is a hyperbole in line 13, „And men, whose sole crime was their hue“. The poet wants to underline that it should be not a crime to have another color of the skin. So this men and women are punished although they are not criminal.
All in all, the poet’s use of stylistic devices underlines the cruelness and unfairness of the trade with slaves.