Inkle and Yarico Text Analysis – Shawn Dermer

How do the specific details of “Inkle and Yarico” retellings shift the message of the story?

The “spark notes” version

I chose to analyze a version of the “Inkle and Yarico” story published in the New York Telescope on November 4th, 1826.

This version of “Inkle and Yarico” is particularly short at only 221 words – about a third the size of this post. Such a decision seems to be based on two assumptions. First that the majority of the New York Telescope readers have also read some version of “Inkle and Yarico”, and second that the actual individual pieces of the story are of little importance in comparison to the general “plot”. Ironically, I’ve found that the latter created a self-fulfilling prophecy in this retelling where the drastically shorted version strips “Inkle and Yarico” of the depth that made it an important and influential narrative. What is most telling about this story is everything that is the story does not tell its readers.

Text analysis of the abridged story

After typing up the plain text transcription of my “Inkle and Yarico” document, I started by uploading the text to databasic’s word counter. Doing so confirmed my initial theory that the shorter “spark notes” style of this document strips the story of its details and, more importantly, the characters of their depth. The only word that came up 3 times was “upon”, which was primarily used as a transition word. Interestingly, both “Inkle” and “Yarico” occurred twice in the document. During my first reading, it felt like Inkle was referenced notable more when in fact he was merely named from the beginning. Yarico on the other hand did not receive a name in the body of the text until the concluding remarks – before that she was merely the “Indian maid”. Despite the equal counts of their names, Inkle is framed as a much more significant character simply due to the order and framing around his introduction. Even in such a short document, the power of these decisions in shaping the readers perspectives of the characters is evident.

Next, I uploaded both my document from New York Telescope as well as the Smith version of “Inkle and Yarico” to databasic’s SameDiff tool. I was surprised to see a significant amounts of words shared between the documents, especially when words like “men” and “Indian” appeared in both but “women” and “negroes” only appeared in the Smith version. It seems like in an effort to shorten the text, the author of the New York Telescope version dropped details that would be significant in analyzing race and gender throughout “Inkle and Yarico”. This is particularly interesting as this analysis indicates how significantly the Smith version influenced my document with the last sentence “And so poor Yarico for her love lost her liberty.” being nearly identical between the two (give or take punctuation). I was also surprised to see that “Inkle” never came up in the Smith version. It seems that Smith focused more on the actions of Inkle, whereas the New York Telescope framed the story much more directly around the character.

The piece did still appear to convey emotion

Lastly, I ran both the abridged “Inkle and Yarico” as well as the Smith version through an online sentiment analysis tool found here. The former produced a negative score of 86.2%, whereas the latter produced a negative score of 84.7%. This data would imply that despite the significant length difference the New York Telescope version of “Inkle and Yarico” is of comparable sentiment to Smith’s version. In this case, the core detail that “Inkle and Yarico” is fundamentally a tragic story is not lost in the abridged version. While the issues of race and gender that “Inkle and Yarico” can be more easily glossed over as the story is shortened, a retelling true to the main plotline of the story still conveys the clear negative tint of Inkle’s actions and Yarico’s fate.

Detailed variations of “Inkle and Yarico” can address greater issues but do not appear to drastically change the overall moral

The New York Telescope’s “Inkle and Yarico” article definitely loses the depth of some of the more classic editions, but it seems much more difficult to lose the overall sense of emotion behind the story. While more comparative analysis would benefit our understanding of the potential depth of the story (especially with sentiment analysis where a more accurate model such as one trained on narratives could be used), shortening “Inkle and Yarico” drastically alters its ability to address issues of race and gender without losing the tragic nature of the narrative.