Responses to Our Nig; or Sketches from the Life of a Free Black, in a Two Story White House, North



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Our nig which is the name given to a free black slave, even though this name was given to a slave that was free did not mean you were free. This story exposes how the racial dynamics of slavery are replicated in the interracial encounters outside slavery. Our Nig was a story of a slave that fit under this category of not being free when freedom existed.

In this passage I will give my critical analysis of my interpretation of Our Nig Frado who was abandoned by her mother and left at the hands of the Belmont family were she was taken as an indentured servant, while being in this house Frado experienced physical and verbal abuse while being in this household. Frado was abandoned by her mother who left to be with her black lover. Frodo’s’ mother experienced harsh treatment because she had relations with a black man, which resulted in her not being able to receive medical attention.

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This was a primary factor that resulted in Frado mother ultimately abandoning her daughter and leaving her in the care of the Belmont family. Frado received most of her abuse from Mrs. Belmont and her daughter Mary. At times Frado received apparent kindness from the other members of the house hold particularly Mary’s brothers Jack and James, their invalid sister Jane, and their Aunt Abby. The narrative gives a very in-depth and encounter and look into the life of Frado and the timeline of the abuse and the outcome of it all.

I read an article by Lois Leveen who is the assistant professor of English and Humanities at Reed College. She wrote a critical analysis and the dynamics of her personal feeling about Harriet Wilsons Novel Our Nig. Lois Leveen gives her views on how this story is perceived and viewed upon, She believes that Frado cause herself to be captured and enslaved by the Belmont Family. She states that if Frado does not become curious about the house of the Belmont family then she would not have been lead into the house she would not be enslaved.

She states that the author simply express that the house is viewed as a symbol of oppression and she felt like that this was done to liberate herself from the very forces of domination to which the novels protagonist is subjected. The symbolism that she points out shows the reference and feeling that white is pure and dominating and black is not pure and submissive and subjected to being dominated. She states that we should not look at Frado as a person, but we she looks her as a necessity to the family because of her being a very good laborer.

She believes that Frado being the slave in the house hold was very essential to the lives of the other white counterparts. Lois Leveen points out that having an indentured servant put the family in different class and it was becoming the new trend to have an indentured servant. She also states that Our nig does not bears no resemblance to slave narratives rather, Frado status as free reveals how the spatial and racial limitations that initially developed under slavery were already being imposed on free blacks and were likely to continue long after slavery ended.

She firmly believed that even though Harriet Wilson writes an account of what Frado was going through that this was going to be a predetermined behavior by slave owners that lost such much wealth over that fact that slavery was ending that someone thought and said to themselves that we are just going to turn slaves into house servants. I believe that Frado was treat horribly through her time in the Belmont’s estate, she was not a true indenture servant were she just did chores and clean up and maintained the house. Frado was confined to a small living quarter; she was placed in an attic.

She did not have a proper room to stay in, and she was not able to come and go as she pleases. I feel like Lois Leveen seems to make an excuse for the treat of Frado as this was a destined situation for slaves that were free. She also feels like that Harriet Wilsons account does not hold much weigh as a slave narrative because it was a subjected and submissive intake to be enslave, In which I feel is rather ridiculous because this is an account of a little girl that was tormented and physically beaten to the point that she was incapacitated from her treatment there to support herself.

In conclusion Harriet Wilson’s novel to Our Nig; or Sketches from the Life of a Free Black, in a Two Story White House, North, should be seen as a valid Slave narrative that is a valid account of a slave that was not free, which suffered more then what we can imagine because of a family that wanted someone to do work for them and to improve their class status. We can point out in this novel that there was people who cared about Frado and wanted to remove her from her situation but how do we know that she would have been in a different if not the same situation with someone else.

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