View this PageEdit this PageUploads to this PageHistory of this PageHomeRecent ChangesSearchHelp Guide

Categories of analysis: clip 7



clip 7- Flora Cameron in Peril

time: 23:36-27:48
shots: 1052-1093

filmic technique

  • filmic intercutting as a technique imbricated in the creation of racial stereotypes
  • persistence of the black male leer throughout: conventionalized figure of racial fear
  • facial close-ups of Flora's hysteria: generation of sympathy and inciting fear, using human face as a canvas for emotive intent

  • concern with creating impression of depth within the frame: placement of figures in foreground and background within the forest setting



racial representation

  • the black man rising above his station: Gus is incited to sexual violence by the talk of carpetbaggers, claiming the equality of whites and blacks in all manners
  • "I'm a Captain now– and I want to marry–" - use of the intertitle as a still

  • visual representation of the lascivious black male, leering from concealed locations
  • recurrence in film of the black lurker: filmed peering from behind trees and beneath floorboards (i.e. spy at the Cameron house)
  • these voyeuristic appearances suggest the ubiquity of the black gaze: threat of incursion from the off-screen space
  • the intertitle "The Grim Reaping begins" implies a programmatic campaign of rape: that black males are perennially on the lookout for white society to let down its guard
  • visual marks of animalism in portrayal of Gus: hunched shoulders, lumbering gait



literary origins

  • comparison to portrayals of rape in The Leopard's Spots and The Clansman: more explicit references, depictions of rape in the novels
  • "a fate worse than death"- rape as trope in the popular novel, a persistent threat to women and a motive force for the men responsible for shielding them
  • unbelievable plot coincidences surrounding rape reflect the ways in which authors sensationalized their material: rapist in The Leopard's Spots discovered through an imprint of his image left on the eyes of his victims

  • rape does not occur on camera in "Birth of a Nation," but is represented symbolically in the scene where Flora throws herself from the cliff
  • "fate worse than death"- she chooses death rather than submit herself to the inevitable consequences that Gus represents
  • form of filmic shorthand, or ellipsis, but playing to a store of cultural preconceptions, a knowingness on the part of the audience

  • invented scene: the character Flora does not exist in the novels, but Griffith combines incidents and elements of other characters into
a figure designed to elicit audience sympathy
  • in Dixon, a mother and daughter jump to their deaths to avoid their pursuers
  • Griffith's motivation for creating an innocent, merely to have her killed part way through the movie



historical representation

  • exploration of historical treatments, definitions of rape in the South
  • actual cases and their judicial outcomes
  • statistics on formal convictions for cross-racial rape: the omnipresent menace represented in "Birth of a Nation" disproportionate to actual cases
  • the threat of rape used to exonerate the perpetuation of racially-motivated violence, vengeance
  • figures suggesting the incidence of lynching and mob justice

  • "rape of the South"- the use of rape as a counter in the reconstruction of male Southern identity in the postbellum period
  • deprived of status as plantation owners, white masculine identity relocated to the protection of "white Womanhood"
  • the refined, upper-class white woman: a symbol of the aristocratic society that had been dismantled after the war, ‘raped’ by punitive Union policies
  • the supposed protection of helpless, pure womanhood as a reconfigured form of patrician guardianship

  • displacement of cross-racial desire from white male to the black male
  • the lynching of the ‘crazed’ black male by whites as a purging of their own bestial impulses
  • similarly festive atmosphere of lynchings and black mistrel shows: using the black scapegoat as a release for tensions within the dynamic of white identity



back to Clip 7