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“On Virtue” by Phyllis Wheatley essay sample

Phyllis Wheatley is known to be the first African-American female poet who wrote and published her poems and became truly famous. With her works, she opened the doors for other African –American women, who wanted to write and express themselves. Phyllis was born in Senegambia where she lived until she turned seven. At the age of eight, she became a slave and was brought to the US. A family from Boston bought her and taught her to read; they instilled her love in literature. They were the first ones to see and encourage her writing talent when it started to show. Her published collection of poems made her famous both in England and the US. Though some critics argue that her writing talent was not extraordinary, still her works were essential for the history of American literature.

One of her poems “On Virtue” explains and talks about the virtue itself. The author addresses the virtue, calling it a “bright pearl”. It is not easy to analyze and understand the poem after the first read. It is also hard to understand what Phyllis is trying to say. This may be due to the fact that some words that she used possessed a different meaning back in the days. There are also quite a lot of unknown words, for example, “appellation” (name).

The author is struggling to understand the real core of a virtue. She realizes that virtue is hard to reach, but it also can change state of things for the better if a person is trying to reach it. The poem can be interpreted from the religious point of view, as the author hints that God can help to find virtue. God himself is out of human reach, just like any virtue, but with his help and guidance, we can find virtue in Him. It is clear that Phyllis’s faith is extremely strong and unshaken, and she is a devoted and loving person. She talks about her struggle to understand the notion of virtue and how she found all her answers in God. She will continue trying to reach the ideal under His guidance. Her vision of the future is optimistic; she believes that her puzzle will come together in Heaven where she will find eternal life and peace. The main idea of this poem is that virtue is something each human being desires; however, it is different for everyone.

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