Moral criticism evaluates literature and art based on their ability to teach piety and virtue. This approach to criticism was first proposed by Plato, who believed that art should be used to educate and uplift society. In his view, art should be used to teach moral lessons and promote virtuous behavior rather than depicting immoral or corrupting scenes.

One work of literature that can be evaluated using moral criticism is Alice Dunbar-Nelson’s play “Mine Eyes Have Seen.” This play is a historical drama about a group of enslaved Africans brought to the United States in the 1800s(Dunbar-Nelson). The play follows the struggles and triumphs of these characters as they navigate their new lives in the harsh and unforgiving world of slavery.

When evaluating this play using moral criticism, one might ask whether it teaches piety and virtue, as Plato envisioned. On the one hand, some might argue that the play promotes virtuous behavior. The characters in the play face numerous challenges and obstacles, but they always try to do what is right and moral, even in the face of great adversity. They show courage, compassion, and resilience in the face of unimaginable suffering and never give up hope. This is a clear example of the kind of moral instruction that Plato had in mind.

On the other hand, others might argue that the play does not exemplify moral criticism. In their view, the play does not depict virtuous behavior or teach moral lessons but shows the lowest strata of human behavior. The play’s characters are enslaved people subjected to unimaginable cruelty and violence. They are forced to work long hours in the fields and are punished harshly if they do not obey their masters. The play does not show the characters behaving virtuously but rather shows them being mistreated and oppressed.

Additionally, some might argue that the play is corrupting to its audience rather than uplifting. The play shows the brutal and degrading realities of slavery, and some might say this could damage the viewer. They might argue that the play does not promote virtuous behaviour but shows the worst aspects of human nature.

In conclusion, whether or not “Mine Eyes Have Seen” exemplifies moral criticism is a matter of interpretation. Some might argue that the play teaches piety and virtue, while others might say that it depicts the lowest strata of human behavior and is corrupting to its audience. Ultimately, the effectiveness of the play as a moral instruction tool can be debated and discussed.

2 thoughts on “Dunbar-Nelson

  1. Hi, I think you make a very good point that the characters in the play are of a social standing that might not promote citizens to behave in a “virtuous” way, at least not in favor of their current society. The story does reflect the corruption the society faces but also might encourage citizens not to react harshly to its shortcomings.

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