Nat Turner: A Story without words

The graphic novel, Nat Turner, by Kyle Baker, is a very interesting interpretation of Nat Turner’s story.  The question I want to answer is whether or not having words in this graphic novel ruins the author’s message. The author uses credible sources from Nat Turner himself while filling in the rest of his story with the author’s imagination.  Having the story of Nat Turner being told, barely without any words, creates visual imagery within the mind of the reader. The pictures are what tells the story of Nat Turner and with that, they evoke more emotion from the reader. For example, in this picture of Nat Turner’s mother getting branded you don’t need words to know the pain she felt. Just the change of the panels from seeing the branding iron to seeing it on her, you can imagine the scream coming from her mouth.

Even the words that are added later within the novel are the turning point of the story, indicating the shift in Nat’s life. I like how the author added this later in the novel because it indicated when Nat began learning how to read. Once he knew how to read that is when he started questioning his very existence and his purpose in life. Was he meant to be a slave for the rest of his life or was he going to do something with this newfound knowledge? With this knowledge, he led other slaves to a rebellion against their oppressors, the rebellion being told through the pictures. For me, the pictures were tense and full of suspense. Any wrong moment or even a slip of the tongue would end the rebellion. And this did happen without any words. Just pictures showing the decline of the rebellion as you see the betrayal. I was very displeased seeing the traitor going around and ruining Turner’s plans. You didn’t even need words to know the traitor’s intentions, only by his facial expressions. And as for whether he is depicted as a hero, villain, saint, or terrorist at the end of the book, I believe he is depicted as a saint. Lynching is a horrible way to go and Nat was being lynched by an angry mob. And you would assume he would be in agonizing pain but in this panel it depicts him as being in peace. 


So back to answering the questions from earlier I believe the author’s decision to have the pictures tell the story rather than the words or word bubbles was a good one because it allowed the reader to visually image the events taking place in Nat Turner’s life. Graphic novels without words are an interesting category within themselves. If you want to see more of them or where it came from click on the graphic novels or definition links to access more information. 

Leave a Reply