Serena Crowder October 13, 2010 AFAS 342-002 Yuxuf Abana “It was a common enough tale; no one would think it a paradox. ” From the very beginning, it is extraordinarily easy to step into the mind of the main character and narrator Manon Guadet and how the world she lives in becomes an eerie reality. Deeper throughout the novel, there are many themes presented through Manon’s eyes. Through the use of many paradoxes, the themes of racism, gender oppression and marriage in Property, by Valerie Martin is ultimately connected with the institution of slavery in America.
The aristocratic life of the early 19th century is defined in the use of these themes through the pictures they create. Not only do the themes cause the novel to become so gripping, but the characters help in the suspense as well. Each character is presented to be believable and very developed, adding to the excellent sense of reality that the novel gives off overall. Property captivates its readers and enables them to place themselves within the character and makes it easy to relate to the character’s feelings and emotions.
Valerie Martin’s Novel Property is an immersing and captivating story of Manon Gaudet, the wife of a slave owner and a slave, who is the mistress of the slave owner. The story takes place in the early 19th century deep within slavery, on a sugar plantation in Louisiana. While reading, the author, Valerie Martin steers you through the lives of both, Manon Guadet and her slave and servant Sarah. Both characters being incredibly unhappy with their lives for very different reasons, but the reasons end up becoming ultimately similar. Mrs. Gaudet unhappily lives married on a plantation to a man that she despises and cannot love.
Sarah, the slave to Manon, unhappy due to the simple fact that she is a slave, and had been raped a multitude of times from her owner, which has ended up in Sarah conceiving two unwanted children by Mrs. Gaudet’s husband. The drama between Manon, her husband and her slave, Sarah, is played out within their private plantation, but ironically against civil unrest and rebellion within the background. The literary element “paradox”, by definition, is a statement that seems self-contradictory or absurd, but in reality expresses a possible truth. The theme of racism and marriage contains many paradoxes between Gaudet and her husband. Manon Gaudet has no children, but her husband is not childless. It was a common enough tale; no one would think it a paradox. ” (Martin, 29) The tension between Manon Gaudet and her husband heightens due to the fact that they have no children together. Even though Manon wants to bear no children from the man she despises, she still seems to undeniably hate Sarah. It is no wonder why Manon has hatred for Sarah, but she does nothing to change it for her unhappy self. At least in Sarah’s case, she attempts to escape from slavery. Manon does nothing but put the blame on her slave for the problems in her life and marriage.
When, ironically, Manon brought Sarah into the plantation herself, when given her servant as a wedding gift. Almost as if she brought in the problem in her marriage herself. The way Manon punishes Sarah, blinds herself into not being able to realize the fact that her decisions are leading to her horrible marriage. Their slave/ owner relationship is more complex than many. The bitterness Manon feels for herself and her unfulfilled life, is channeled through a one-side rivalry for Sarah. The fact that Sarah has a deaf child, Walter, and Nell, a young baby girl by Manon’s husband is vent for the anger and hatred Manon has for her marriage.
Manon’s behavior is expressed in her wanting to have her ownership of her servant restored. The hopefulness Manon has to get out of her horrid marriage and to move back home to New Orleans and Sarah’s attempt to escape her captivity of being a slave is another example of a paradox. Wanting to escape from slavery is not shocking to hear. The way slaves were treated so brutally creates a sense of sympathy very easily. On the contrary, it is difficult to develop sympathy for Manon Gaudet. While Sarah is putting action her to desires, Manon sits and does nothing.
It is contradictory to have someone who is confined into slavery, which was much more severe than the gender discrepancies at the time, try to escape, than a woman tied down to a marriage she hopes to be set free of. You would think that slavery would have such a massive toll of hopes of a better life than a bad marriage. The paradox of a woman who does not even try to escape her marriage and the slave, who desperately tries, was the shocking reality of the time. Feeling helpless in a world, whether it was due from race or gender made it difficult to create a voice for yourself outside of your own mind.
It is difficult to understand the reason behind Manon and the way she treated the slaves. Ultimately Manon and Sarah were having the exact feelings about their obviously different, but eerie similar situations. Slavery was looked upon as incredibly cruel and evil, and the underlying truth within Valerie Martin’s novel, is that it was not just slaves that were seen as Property. Works Cited: * “paradox. ” Dictionary. com Unabridged. Random House, Inc. 13 Oct. 2010. ;Dictionary. com http://dictionary. reference. com/browse/paradox;. * Martin, Valerie. Property. New York: Doubleday, a division of Random House Inc, 2003. Print.