Inkle and Yarico Text Analysis – Will Redding

For my Inkle and Yarico Analysis project I selected a version of the story from a Milwaukee newspaper in 1850. The story is relatively short, covering only about two paragraphs with 330 words total, and follows the typical Inkle and Yarico story, with Inkle ultimately selling Yarico at the end, despite her carrying his child. Despite the ending portraying Inkle in a bad light, it is uncertain what contexts and opinions lead to this portrayal. As a result, the goal of metadata collection will be discovering what this text and other archival documents say about the opinion of Native Americans, women, and slaves during this time, to determine whether Inkle’s actions would have been deemed acceptable. 

The first tool that I used for my collection was the Word Counter, as the best foundation for metadata collection would likely be the words and phrases that occur the most often. As expected, “Inkle” and “Yarico” were the most common of the non-stop words, with Inkle having 5 appearances and Yarico having 4 appearances. This is a notable similarity, as one appearing far more than the other would signal one character being more important than the other. Some other notable frequent words were “Indian”, “young”, “man”, and “girl”. There was also one trigram that appeared multiple times, that being “he should be”. Unfortunately, knowing word counts cannot tell us that much about the content of the story, as we do not know how these frequent words are used. 

The next tool resolves this issue, as the use of word trees allows us to choose a word or phrase and see every occurrence of that word or phrase. Starting with the names of the two characters of the story, it was interesting to see where in the sentence each of these characters fall. As for Inkle, every time his name appears he is the subject of the sentence, while “Yarico” is only the subject of the sentence once in the four appearances of her name. Of course, there are other ways to refer to a person, so it would be important to look into subject pronouns for each character. When looking into these two, “he” appears a total of 5 times while “she” only appears twice. This means that throughout the entire text Inkle is the subject of the sentence ten times while Yarico is the subject only three times, with many of these appearances occurring together. This likely expresses that Inkle really is the focus of the story, and Yarico is only a character that is the object of the action. 

Other Word Tree discoveries would include the usage of “young” and “man” to refer to Inkle and “girl” to refer to Yarico. When considered in their contexts and placed into the Women Writers Vector Toolkit, some interesting contexts arise. For instance, “young” was connected to words like “gentleman” and “accomplished”, making it seem as though a young man would generally be a heroic figure. On the other end of the spectrum, “girl” had an associated word of “simpleton”, making it seem as though women were not seen as very capable during that time. This suggests further that Inkle is the focus of the story and is taking all of the action, but his positive descriptions still do not explain how he is perceived at the end of the story. 

For more information on that aspect, I went to Women Writers in review to try to glean some information on the perspectives on slavery of the time. Of 14 reviews covering texts that discussed slavery, ten received positive reviews while 2 received negative reviews, with 2 mixed reviews. While these opinions are subjective, the wide differences may have something to say on the opinion of slavery among the literary community. Since all the source authors are women, and women were more likely to be abolitionist, it’s reasonable to believe that these positive reviews may reflect positive opinions on abolition, making writings about slavery likely to be more often against the practice. 

In considering how Inkle is perceived as a positive figure for much of the story while also committing an act that would likely be perceived as betrayal, I believe that there is a gray area of Inkle’s actions that provides a better explanation for public opinion at the time. Given that Inkle is a positive figure when he plans on returning home with Yarico, it’s reasonable to think that perhaps he is seen as a good figure because he intends to bring Yarico to European society, which at the time was considered the optimal society. In selling her off, Inkle is not only subjecting her to slavery, but he is also eliminating her chances at joining his society, which may have been considered a central crime of this story.