The Bondwoman's Narrative
Josh Gilman, Josh R-S, Seth Weber, Alex, Corrigan & Jolie Baldwin
A Complete Summary of Bondwoman's Narrative
~by Jolie Baldwin
In 2001 Professor Henry Louis Gates bought an unpublished manuscript from the Swann Gallery auction and, after much research, verified it as belonging to Hannah Crafts, a slave in 1850’s North Carolina. Hannah's story is a complex and fascinating one. At a young age, she makes the acquaintance of an elderly woman and her husband, who teach her to read. Unfortunately, their secret meetings are discovered, and Hannah is forbidden from ever seeing them again. Distraction soon comes in another form - her master is going to take a wife and the whole household is thrown into an uproar, trying to make preparations. When the new mistress of the house arrives. Hannah is given the post of her personal maid, and is torn between being thoroughly captivated by her beautiful new mistress and wondering about a strange, black-clothed man named Mr. Trappe. The mistress confides in Hannah, and reveals the truth - she is the daughter of a white man and a slave, who was raised as a white woman, with only Mr. Trappe knowing her true parentage. He has kept her paying him a large sum of money to keep from revealing the secret, but she has run out and worries he'll tell her husband. Hannah and the mistress then decide that the best thing to do is to run away and head north, to freedom. The two women soon become lost in the wilderness. They then stay for many months in an abandoned log cabin in the woods, where the mistress is driven insane from fear. Finally, in the middle of autumn, the two are found by a trio of men, who promise to take them somewhere that the mistress can be safe and cared for. From them they learn that the master of the plantation is dead, having committed suicide after a talk with a strange dark-clothed man - Mr. Trappe. Hannah and her mistress are first taken to prison, then to a house in the woods, where they are locked in a series of rooms and attended by an old man. He won't tell them who has brought them there, but they suspect it to be Mr. Trappe. Their suspicions are confirmed when, after a month, they are called into a room to meet their "master". Mr.Trappe tells the mistress that he owns her now, and he will do whatever he pleases with her, and that means selling her to a private purchaser. But before he can finish his sentence, the mistress falls down, blood pouring from her mouth and, with one last kind word to Hannah, dies of terror. Hannah, overcome with grief, learns that she is to be sold to a slave-trader called Saddler, who means to take her down to the Deep South and sell her. However, their wagon crashes, killing Saddler and injuring Hannah. She is saved by a kind woman called Mrs. Henry, who takes her to her plantation and nurses her back to health. She meets a woeful slave named Charlotte, who begs Hannah to run away with her and her husband, but Hannah declines, and is sold to Mrs. Wheeler who initially seems soft and kind but is truly whiny and shrewish. She treats Hannah poorly, ultimately sending her to the fields to marry a lecherous slave, which prompts Hannah to once again attempt escape...
BY KATELYN EYFORD
• Hannah Crafts: main character and narrator. Born into slavery, with the fortunate luck of escaping, provig her literacy, and finding friends, faith, and stability with a few other characters along the way.
• The Mistress: SWife of the Master. Has a huge secret which is later discovered and forces her escape with Hannah. Becomes a confidant and a character one easily sympathizes with. True character growth is shown through her. o:p>
• Mr. Trappe: The antagonist, villain of this arrative. He finds out the big secret the mistress has been keeping and follws Hannah and the mistress on their journey. He becomes an influetial person, always inhibiting Hannah's ability to succeed, move onward, and grow.
Mr. and Mrs. Wheeler: Mrs. Wheeler is
the wife of the office-seeker Mr. Wheeler. She purchases Hannah to be her
Lady’s maid. She is a self-centered, unkind woman who easily masked her
angered feelings. She blames Hannah for a distaster with her face powder, resulting in Hannah's working in the fields and later escape to freedom
Characters: By Alex Korovin
*The Master: The Mistresses husband. Although only slightly mentioned in the story, he was key in the development of the begging story, as he marries The Mistress. And therefore thanks to him one of the main characters is brought into the story. Also, as he was Hannas master, he was the reason for the busy time for Hannah in the preparations for the wedding. He was linient towards his slaves and did not harm them. There is also an element of fairness to him. Unfortunately he kills himself after Hannah and the mistress escape, and after he finds out that the mistress is half black. * Mrs. Bry: The housekeeper of Hannah’s master’s mansion. She was ambitious in her work and was very strict and enforcing of hard work among the slaves. * Horace: He is the main guy out of the three hunters that find the Mistress and Hannah hiding in the woods, promising to take them some place safe and good. *Jail Guard: A hazy character who is not mentioned much except the fact that he guards Hannah and the Mistress when they are in jail, and later moves them to better conditions (still as captives) where they meet Mrs. Wright. *Mrs. Wright: The mentally ill lady whom the escapees meet in jail. She has her “panick attacks”. It is revealed that she has been imprisoned for helping one of her slaves escape. * Mr. Saddler: Slave trader that buys Hannah from Mr. Trappe. While transporting Hannah to the deeps south to sell her there, he is killed in an accident as his horses go out of control and the wagon crashes. * Mr. and Mrs. Henry: Mrs. Henry is the lady that found Hannah injured after the incident with the horses going wild. Mrs. Henry takes Hannah to the Henrys’ plantation, where she restores her back to health, and where we are introduced to Charlotte and William. Mrs. Henry is extremely nice to Hannah, and so is Mr. Henry (Mrs. Henry’s husband). Overall, the dream owners of any slave, if there were such. Don’t even hold their slaves back from running away! Charlotte and William: They are the slaves that get married at Mrs. Henries plantation. Charlotte is from Mrs. Henry’s plantation, and William is from a neighboring one. Charlotte is grieves a lot, and William is known for secretly lurking around the Henry’s plantation, and therefore responsible for the ghost rumor that starts because of it. After some planning, they run away North for a happier life. * Lizzy: The mistress’s personal slave whom the mistress brings with her to the Masters plantation. She is a friend of Hannah’s when they were owned by the master and mistress. She reappears later in the story to tell the tale of the cosgroves. Also Lizzy is good with names and numbers, overall has a good memory. *Mr. Cosgrove and Mrs. Cosgrove: New owners of the plantation which used to be owned by the Master. They are only mentioned in a story by Lizzy. Mr. Cosgrove is a filthy animal who sleeps with his female slaves. Mrs. Cosgrove is a jealous (but justified in her jealousy) woman who doesn’t tolerate Mr. Cosgroves behavior. Both Cosgrave’s can be abusive to their slaves, both physically and mentally. *Maria: The annoying x-maid of Mrs. Wheeler whom spreads lies about Hannah, and sets her up to be forced into marriage of a field slave, as Mrs. Wheeler is lead to believe by Maria that Hannah told everyone about the black powder accident. *Evelyn: One of the favorite slaves whom Mr. Cosgrove doesn’t sell but keeps secretly, until Mrs. Cosgrove finds out. Mrs. Cosgrove scares Evelyn into running away. Jacob and his sister: The two runaway slaves whom Hannah finds in the woods as she is running away from Mrs. Wheeler. Jacobs sister is very ill and dies. Jacob is killed by a slave hunters bullet. .
BY Josh Rice-Sauer
Race, Equality, and Self Identity
Before the story begins there is the conflict of whether or not the writings were legitimately written by an actual slave girl, not a white person trying to re create or make up a slave narrative. One of my favorite indications that this is a legitimate story is that the color or race of the characters is not presented before we get to know the character. Sometime we don’t ever get an idea of their color. When whites attempt slave narratives they usually always state the color of the person in one way or another before anything else is known about them.
Between different people-
Mr. Trappe and the Mistress: Mr. Trappe had a devastating secret that is destroying the mistress that has to do with her true parentage. He has been making her pay him large sums of money to keep her secret to himself.
Mr. Trappe and Hannah: Hannah is growing fond of her mistress and knows that Mr. Trappe is the source of her misery.
Hannah and the Mistress: When the Mistress and Hannah flee the plantation they hide out in a cabin in the woods. While there the mistress begins to grow fanatical and more than once accuses Hannah of being out to get her. Hannah on the other hand is trying to protect herself and the senile mistress.
Slaves Vs. Masters: Ongoing conflict between masters and slaves.
The mistress has an inner conflict. She, after knowing her true parentage, is not sure of her own identity. Is she a white woman or a black? Is she a slave or master?
Hannah is also trying to find her own identity. Is she a slave or a person? Is she a writer or a servant, one of God’s children or just another black slave girl in the south?
• How captivity, self discovery, and self-image affect one's successes, failures, and future is the main theme I found present in the first half. Being held captive from herself, her potential, equality, and freedom is Hannah who struggles to attain these things, eventually leading to her own self discovery, better literacy, and freedom.
• Stability and faith in a person can drive one to push forth through the worst situations to attain hope and the chance at a quality life is the other theme apparent in the first half. Hannah trusts the Mistress and the Mistress trusts her to take care of her; they are self-reliant, but depend on one another very much. The trust between Hannah and Aunt Hetty as well proves that faith in someone can prove to be a wise decision:p>
• Conflicts Second Half Race, Equality, Self Identity “The greatest curse of slavery is its hereditary character. The father leaves to his son an inheritance of soil and misery, and his place on the fetid straw in the miserable corner, with no hope or possibility of anything better.” (p.200) “It must be a strange state to be prized just according to the firmness of your joints, the strength of you sinews, and your capability of endurance.” (p.201) Hannah: Loyalty and Freedom: Charlotte and William wish her to flee with them to freedom but she is currently in the employ of a generous host: Mrs. Henry and is compelled to stay Hannah and Mrs. Wheeler: Hannah is sold to Mrs. Wheeler and her Husband. Mrs. Wheeler is extremely demanding but Hannah is getting by. Hannah picks up a beauty product for Mrs. Wheeler and it ends up turning her face black, so she becomes the laughing stock of the area she lives in, and blames Hannah for the reaction the make-up caused. Mistress Cosgrove and Husband’s “favorite” ones: Mistress Cosgrove returns from England to find that her husband has slept with a number of his beautiful slaves and has given them and their children preferential treatment. Her mission is then to rid her plantation of the “favorite” ones and in doing so she ruins her relationship with her husband and her vengeance and paranoia consume mer. Maria and Hannah: When the Wheelers flee Washington DC because of the humiliating reaction Mrs. Wheeler had to some make-up they take Hannah with them. When they arrive, the jealous slave Maria schemes to rid Hannah of her preferential treatment within the household. Maria tells the mistress that Hannah has been telling the whole plantation about the mishap with the make up which she was sworn to keep secret. Bill and Hannah: Once Hannah is removed from the household due to Maria’s successful plan, another slave named Bill asks and the Wheelers if he can have Hannah as his wife. The Wheelers allow it but Hannah wants nothing to do with Bill. It doesn’t last long because Bill and her removal from the comforts of working in the Household ultimately compel her to flee. Hannah and inner conflict to Flee: As she reaches Carolina with the Wheelers she is put into a situation where she would rather risk her life by escaping to the north and freedom than to stay and deal with the life that Mrs. Wheeler has chosen for her; one working in the fields, living in the dirty huts, and being the wife of the repulsive Bill. “I hear a voice you cannot hear which says I must not stay I see a hand you cannot see which beckons me away” Tickell (p.206)
• The theme of faith and relationships stays constant throughout the second half of the novel; Hannah has to rely on herself, her surroundings, and those taking care of her and in charge of her to be able to make it through every day.
• Captivity is no longer present. Hannah seems to have lliberated herself of her inner struggles and conflicts, she sheds her inhibitions and makes the choice to run. br> • MAN VS NATURE maintains a constant place in the foundation of this novel. Hannah relies on her surroundings during her escapes and finds peace with it all.
BY SETH WEBER and KATELYN EYFORD
Obviously it is written as a slave narrative-
There are 4 phases to slave narratives
1. "First comes the loss of innocence, which is objectified through the development of an awareness of what it means to be a slave."
2. "Second is the realization of alternatives to bondage and the formulation of a resolve to be free."
3. "The third phase is the escape."
4. "The fourth phase is that of freedom obtained."
(Quotes from The WSU Slave Narrative Page.)
I could clearly see the influence of the sentimental writing style in her book, especially in her over indulgence in emotion, specifically in regards to her relationship with the mistress. Her influence from gothic writing style is also fairly plain to see.
The writing style overall is very enjoyable and if one didn’t know, could think it was written yesterday, minus the few grammatical and spelling errors, which Henry Louis Gates Jr corrected in brackets.
The spelling errors that do occur, some minor and some major, never distract from the narrative and the ocurraces. She makes reference to some other works, according to the research in the back of the book, making her ideas somewhat unoriginal, but nontheless, unique and revolutionary for her time.
- Captivity Narrative
WHY YOU NEED TO READ THIS
This is the true tale of a slave woman in the 1800's, escaping to freedom and struggling with death around every corner. The curret issues we face today such as equality, race, perserveirance, and hope are relatable for readers. The details are suprisingly remakrable and eye opening making the book a gentle and easy read while being completely flaberghasted by some of the goings-on.