Total Words; 301 Essay
1. What does the term foreshadowing mean in Literature? What theme(s) does the novel’s opening incident or plot detail (pages 3--4) foreshadow in the rest of the novel and why? ( It is useful to read the whole novel first before you respond to this question).
The literary device foreshadowing pertains to the use of indicative word or phrases and intimations that set the stage for a story to unfurl and give the reader a clear suggestion of something that is going to happen, without revealing the story or spoiling the suspense. Foreshadowing is used to suggest an upcoming outcome to the story. This literary device literally means “guessing ahead” wherein an author suggests what is to come. It is employed to avoid disappointment. It is also sometimes used to excite the readers. However, foreshadowing only suggests a possible outcome within the confinement of a narrative.
In the book, Property, Valerie Martin hints on the overall story by saying: ''It never ends” (Martin, p. 4). This suggests that everything in the story is cyclical – the slavery and enslavement, the poverty of the soul, the personal misery, etc. Everything in the protagonist’s life oppresses her. She does not get any enjoyment, not in the company of her husband, whom she valued against the memories of her benevolent father. She finds her husband lacking in every way. When her husband died, she entertained a suitor named Mr. Gaudet. This guy had an aloof manner and he seems mysterious, even sensitive. Once she again remarried, she finds herself in the same marital confinement. She finds her new husband boorish, cruel and perverse. She feels violated that once again she exchanged her beauty for physical comfort and emotional abuse. The lack of options for the female characters keeps on repeating throughout the story. It seems a paradoxical situation. She lost the husband she hated with less remorse. She got a new lover but she seems unhappy. The agony of being entrapped in a situation goes on throughout the story of the protagonist. This foreshadowing device was successfully employed in this novel.
2. What does the literary element paradox mean? How does the novel use paradox to develop the themes of race and gender as interconnected themes in the American institution of slavery? What specific textual evidence can you introduce and analyze from the novel to support your claims?
"He had not so much destroyed my life as emptied it."
A paradox is a statement which is self contradictory because it often contains two opposing statements. These statements are both true, but in general, they cannot both be true at the same time. However, the point of a paradox is to point out a truth, even if the statements contradict each other. In the case of this novel, the paradox is that the protagonist owns a slave with whom her husband has two children. She is neither a reluctant slave owner nor a brave abolitionist. Paradoxically, this slave owning protagonist is also a slave of her own husband who brought her personal miseries. Hence, she said, “He had not so much destroyed my life as emptied it" (p. 176). She also mentioned being “in an uncomfortable space between” (p. 177). She actually resent her slave "relationship" with her husband not to mention the reality that she also resents taking care of his children by his slave mistress. She acts upon her own enslavement by taking it out on her slave, Sarah, the mistress of her husband.
The dynamics of marriage as a social institution and having a mistress during the time of slavery serve as a social backdrop in the literary paradox. All the contexts and settings go back to the major themes of race and gender as it metaphors the “enslavement” in marriage to the “enslavement” of Blacks as institutionalized in the American society. Sarah, the slaved, cannot overcome her sorry existence. As an enslaved wife, Manon, the protagonist, cannot veer away from her husband even when was totally disgusted with him. They are both powerless and it is a clear paradox being pointed out. The social relationships drown both the female characters yet they cannot pull away. Here is where gender is pegged to the themes as illustrated by the paradox.
Total words: 314
3. Who is the character of Walter in the novel and how and why is he a metaphor of the American institution of slavery?
Walter was the son of Manon’s husband to her slave, Sarah. He was a wild child and was literally deaf to those who would discipline him. For instance, he would burst into the dining room when there is a guest. He would call everyone’s attention. He would curl into the guest’s lap and become attractive and a charmer. Walter seemed like an angel. He played the holy fool, an innocent child who alerts us to the sins of those we might mistakenly assume to be humane, or even civilized. Walter seldom spoke during the novel, at least not in a way that Manon or evidently any of the other characters can understand. This means that we are left to interpret his behavior wholly by Manon’s perception of him.
Walter is a metaphor by which slavery can be further realized and run from. He epitomizes the opportunity to break free from the social confines of the time. For one, he was a child of the slave and the slave owner’s husband. This in itself is an aberration. Walter can get away from his being self absorbed and he sometimes exhibited self reliance. Walter represents liberation, of being free form the bondage of slavery even when this was not accepted yet in the full sense; he was able to carry on with it through his little ways. He was a bastard, in a way metaphors the institution of slavery as a necessary evil. It is something that society can do without but it feeds through it, allows its presence and let it reins havoc in the lives of the people around. In a way, slavery is an illegitimate child of the American society. It is evil and affects people negatively, but it was not apprehended, the way Manon herself cannot apprehend Walter.
Total words; 300
4. When and why does Manon’s mother advise her to “submit” (151) in the novel? What does Manon’s mother imply or mean by her advice and what significance does this have on the development of Manon’s character in the novel?
Thus, in the initial chapter of the novel, the plot ensues as Manon accepted the wealthy sugar plantation’s advantageous marriage proposal. He husband represented everything she despises yet she submitted to marrying him. For one, her husband is a slave molester and he had sired her own slave Sarah, two children. He was also violent and he treated slaves like his own properties. This is very much in contrast with her own father’s concept of slave owning. Manon’s husband represented everything she repulses yet she has no freedom and will and a sense of control to disallow their marriage. It was not a total submission, in a way since she did not realize the husband’s traits long after they got married.
This plot gave way to the interesting twists of the protagonist’s character and how it engages the reader to further view the plight of women, as to their role in marriage and their own view on slavery during those times. Without Manon’s submission, they would never be an enriching story about slavery and female emancipation.
Total words; 303
5. Define and analyze two different and distinct literary elements in the novel’s description of Manon’s wedding night (150—152). What are these literary elements? What idea does the use of these literary elements reveal about gender and sexuality of Manon as a white woman in the institution of slavery.
The two distinct literary elements in the depiction of the protagonist’s wedding night are: the author’s diction or language choices and her narrative viewpoint. Throughout the story, the author used the subjective, first person point of view of Manon. Her narrative viewpoint also depicts her reflections on her wedding night through the imagery such as that of narrating how “my husband roared over me like a locomotive (p. 36). The first and second literary devices create some sympathy for Manon. Her first-person narrative leaves the audience the perspective of the perpetrator to guide the audience’s emotions and sensitivities. Instead of eliciting the sympathy for Manon’s plight, this device likewise exposes the ugly truth of the protagonist’s beliefs.
Manon’s hatred of her husband destroys the impetus to enhance his property. Manon’s resentment of her husband outweighs the sexual pleasure as she likened having a sexual act with him very mechanical and within the confines of her husband’s sexual license to her (being her wife, she owes him this responsibility). By narrative point of view, the audience takes a glimpse of Manon’s state of barrenness, though not “for lack of trying” in the first phases of their marriage before receiving a nearly comatose-inducing sleeping tincture from the doctor that she implements to dispel her husband’s desire for her (p. 35).
At one instance, her husband tells her, “I’ve not much interest in making love to a corpse” (p. 56). This reflects how she detests and avoids him. By making herself unattractive to her husband, Manon orchestrates her sexual abstinence. Inadvertently, she also imitates her father’s “failing” to attend to her mother’s sexual needs, claiming his “lostdesire for more children” (p. 176). Manon finds her own husband’s crude performance of intercourse “urgent and disagreeable, his kneading and sucking at [her] breasts until the nipples hurt, his fingers probing between [her] legs, his harsh breath in [her] face” (p. 37).
Total words: 316
6. What is your sense of the word property in the novel and what three reasons (supported with analysis of textual evidence) do you think justifies Manon’s (a white woman) definition or description as property.
Property, as explicitly defined by the novel’s themes and plot and characters, refer to the human beings as being property or owned by someone else. Manon was owned by her husband and the society, whom she feared to break away from. Sarah, the African slave, was a property because she allows the sexual advances of her owner’s husband. Manon’s marital subjugation and her possession of a slave called Sarah are paradoxes for owning something of value yet not realizing its value due to some social rule sand conventions. (Sarah was given to Manon as a wedding gift). As property, they did not consummate their worth and they are unhappy and miserable.
Manon was owned by her husband, she was not able to escape his control. She was also materially dependent on her husband. Sarah is also the property of Manon, while Sarah is a bright and smart; she cannot stand up for her ideas and views because she is just a slave. She was given to Manon because Manon’s aunt does not want her.
Through the character of Manon, the author explored the perversity of being a property or being owned since it exposes the loose dichotomy between the owner and the one owned. Initially, Manon, with her physical beauty, cannot overcome the circumstances which she was set in. As being confined in her material possession, her house at the plantation, Manon felt entrapped and she wanted to escape (p. 29). This is the second conceptual definition of property, not being able to move or do what one desires. When Manon travelled to her mother’s house, she was comfortable and she even uttered that for the first time she feel “in possession of the house” (p. 121). This symbolizes that away from her material possession, she finds comfort and could exercise her freedom. She feels she is free even in her own mind. By owning a slave, she also feels bound to her and she feels she owes her slaves or she is responsible for her (p. 157). This is the third description of slavery as pronounced by Manon.
Total words: 349
The three main characteristics which likened Mr. Gaudet to Dr. Flint are as follows. Mr. Gaudet was also very cruel. He was randomly cruel. He demands total submission of his slaves, just like Sarah, whom he took against her will most of the time. He is a molester and threats his slave badly. Just like Dr. Flint, he inflicts every known type of torture on his servants. Same with the other slave owning masters, they consider their slaves as animals or something else, but not humans. They did not consider them as beings with souls.
The common traits of Mr. Gaudet and Dr. Flint mirror the real truth in slave owning systems during the 1800’s. It was a social institution that renders the Blacks as property and hence, their closeness to reality brings us closer to main themes present in the issue of slavery. One is that of violence. Mr. Gaudet and Dr. Flint are main metaphors of the slave structures in society. They are the super cruel, pretentious, and like-minded slave owners. They were Whites. They did not experience moments of remorse or feelings for their victims.
Provided with absolute power by the slave system, Dr. Flint and Mr. Gaudet showed so much abuse, either through marital abuse, sexual abuse, physical violence, etc. They did not reflect if this was still their rights but they inherently believed that owning their slaves, they can do whatever they wanted to their slaves. The two male characters showed that they wanted total submission of their slaves and even their wives. They aptly symbolize the defining qualities of slavery: lust for power, moral corruption, and brutality. When they were defied, they were angered and threatened to empower themselves back by the use of violence.
Most stories of slavery impress the physical oppression and depravity that slaves were to take. This showed the gory details of physical and brutal abuses to frighten the audience. This condition adds to the greater anguish of spiritual and psychological nature. Both characters define the situations which reflected the sufferings of the slaves as they were denied of their basic human rights and legal protection.
Another important link in these historical and fictional characters is the concept of being like a property. Their characters reflect how the slaves and their other possession do not have independence and rights. Institutionally, during those times, these slaves were not allowed to choose lifetime partners of their own choices. They were actually forbidden to get a lifetime partner. Women slaves were often raped by their masters, whom they detested. The most negative effect is that families were torn apart and this was shown in both novels. The white families and families of slaves were both affected by their bitter relationships. Even slaves who are not physically abused were mentally and psychologically abused. They were emotionally damaged. The devastating physical abuses also marred them.
A common theme in both these fictional and historical slave narratives is about violence. One of the earliest memories of the heroine was of Dr. Flint’s strong and rapacious physical assaults of a slave from his plantation. The heroine remembered witnessing splattered blood on the house the next day. Mrs. Flint, who was supposed to be a devout Christian, ordered her slaves to be physically abused until they turned black and blue. She also let them remain hungry. She forced Aunt Nancy to stay out of her bedroom throughout the night. She let this penalty, not minding that Nancy was bearing a child. This led to the premature delivery and the delivery of a dead baby by the said slave. Mrs. Flint’s treatment of Aunt Nancy, as Linda pointed out, amounted to a very slow killing. The poor slaves were physically desecrated. Their wounds were even splashed with vinegar to add more pain.
On the other hand, in Property, Manon’s simple pleasures inside the plantation were also overshadowed by the constant threats of violence, diseases, and arbitrary laws. There was shocking injustice and violence all over the plantation both in Property and in the novel where Dr. Flint was a main character. Both novels decry of the situation and seemingly cried for help. There was disillusionment and discontent in the Southern society. Both novels depicted slavery, sexual violence, marital abuse, among others.
Both patriarchs represent the system of oppression in those days. The heroes both depicted sadist and cruel behaviors against their slaves and their properties (including their family members). Both the characters of Mr. Gaudet and Dr. Flint reflect the social hierarchy wherein the males dominated the society. The wealthy élite society stayed on the top social ladder, since it compared itself with the French noble society in France in the ancient régime and refused to be seen as lower. This created a great social gap between the slaves and the élites, which caused a social disorder in this state, and created racism through slave oppression.
The White men considered themselves rightful in dominating the black men violently and they enslaved the Blacks permanently. Domination is usually used with “violence that was usually hidden beneath the civilizing rhetoric of imperialism.” The white men like Dr. Flint and Mr. Gaudet regarded themselves as civilized, and they threated the black men violently since they took him as the lowest of low in the socia ladder. They took the Balcks as outcast, uncivilized and primitive. Their race was their cross and their license to being abused.
Violence was also depicted as generally practiced on the black slaves. Both Dr. Flint and Mr Gaudet exhibited this oppression. The black women made up the lowest gender and race in the social hierarchy and as the white men hungered for domination, they became easy targets for his domination. Racial and sexual violence were depicted together by images of rape, which in different forms, becomes an abiding and recurrent metaphor for colonial relations. The white men like Mr. Gaudet oppressed the black woman like Sarah by raping her, and her rape comes as a kind of punishment and domination.
Total words; 1003
Martin, Valerie. Property. New York: Vintage. 2003.
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