From *The Journal of Madam Knight*

From “The Journal of Madam
Sarah Kemble Knight
Why is this so important?
• Why was it unusual in 1704 for a woman to
make a business trip from Boston to New York
and back?
– Travel at this time meant hours on horseback
through woods and across streams.
• Enough “To startle a more masculine courage.”
The Journal
• In the first entry in her journal, Madam Knight
describes an episode that fills her with terror.
– What is this episode?
• A description of her fear of drowning while crossing the
hazardous river.
– Why is this significant?
• A contradiction of “masculine courage”
The Journal
• Other elements that frightened:
– “…tormented with visions of drowning” (42).
– In dread of “dolesome woods” (43).
– Darkness is terrifying (43).
The Journal
• What is the purpose served by Madam
Knight’s thoughts on the sight of the moon?
– Diversion from the uneasiness.
• The moon is the goddess Cynthia, who makes old hag,
Night, loosen her cloak. Woods are filled with light, and
Knight with joy. (43)
• Identify examples of this uneasiness
throughout her journal.
The Journal
• What are Madam Knight’s impressions of:
– Marriage customs in New Haven
• People married young and at public weddings.
• The bridegroom left and was dragged back by the bridesmaid (46).
– Religious customs in New York
• People were not strict in keeping the Sabbath
• They were sociable to one another and courteous to strangers.
• She seems struck by unusual holidays and games (45)
• Makes special mention of fashions (47) and popularity
of sleigh riding (48).
The Journal
• From what point of view did Madam Knight
observe her experiences on the journey from
Boston to New York?
– From that of a well-educated city person
• What signs of her reading appear in her journal?
– Alludes to Cynthia and Neredies from mythology (43)
– She imagines a sumptuous city like those in stories
– Reminded of the Olympics (45)
The Journal
• How does Madam Knight’s city upbringing
affect the way she sees “Bumpkin Simpers”
and “Joan Tawdry”?
– To her they look ridiculous because they lack
The Journal
• How does Madam Knight challenge the
Writing and Responding to Literature
• Paraphrase the following passage so that it is
easier to understand:
– I cannot express the concern of mind this relation
set me in: no thoughts but those of the dangerous
river could entertain my imagination, and they
were as formidable as various, still tormenting me
with blackest ideas of my approaching fate –
sometimes seeing myself drowning, otherwhiles
drowned, and at the best like a holy sister just
come out of a spiritual bath in dripping garments.
(Knight 42)

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