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Literature Study GuidesThe Confessions Of Nat Turner

The Confessions of Nat Turner | Study Guide

William Styron

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William Styron

Year Published





History, Historical Fiction

Perspective and Narrator

The novel is narrated in the first person by Nat Turner, leader of a slave rebellion in Southampton County, Virginia, in 1831. In prison and awaiting execution, Turner reflects on his life and makes his confession to lawyer Thomas Gray, who transcribes the confession, embellishing and altering it. However, the novel is narrated in Turner's voice, not in Gray's edited version.


Nat Turner narrates in both the present tense and the past tense. Some of his visions and dreams are written in the present tense, as are some of his memories.

About the Title

The novel is set in the days immediately preceding the execution of the slave Nat Turner, an actual historical figure who led a rebellion in 1831. The novel shares its title with a historical document, a pamphlet called "The Confessions of Nat Turner." In the novel Nat Turner's "confessions" relate the story of the rebellion and the story of his life.


This study guide for William Styron's The Confessions of Nat Turner offers summary and analysis on themes, symbols, and other literary devices found in the text. Explore Course Hero's library of literature materials, including documents and Q&A pairs.

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