Our Nig; or Sketches from the life of a Free Black and A Narrative of the Captivity and Restauration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson Harriet Wilson’s and Mary Rowlandson’s captivity narratives have three things in common. First, they have a theme of sustaining faith in God throughout their trials. Secondly, they portray their captors as savages. Finally, they all demonstrate the isolation felt by the prisoner.
Our Nig: or, Sketches from the Life of a Free Black by Harriet Wilson is the story of a Northern girl, born into an interracial family and later abandoned by her parents, forcing her to become the servant of the Bellmont Household. After Mary, Mrs. Bellmont’s daughter falls into a stream, Frado must endure a horrific beating by both women. “No sooner was he out of sight than Mrs. B. and Mary commenced beating her unhumanly, then propping her mouth open with a piece of wood, shut her up in a dark room, without any supper.” (Wilson, 34-35). Yet Frado is able to continually endure the wrath and violence of Mrs. Bellmont. “But, Frado, if you will be a good girl, and love and serve God, it will be but a short time before we are in a heavenly home together. There will never be any sickness or sorrow there.” (Wilson, 95). As she is continually tortured, Frado finds salvation through her faith, thus allowing her to survive.
Mary Rowlandson’s A Narrative of the Captivity and Restauration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson displays this same theme as well. The Narragansett Indians took Rowlandson and her children captive. “All was gone, my Husband gone (at least separated from me, he being in the Bay, and to add to my grief, the Indians told me they …
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…ile Wilson’s novel exposed the savage treatment of “free” blacks in the North prior to the civil war.
American Authors. http://www.gonzaga.edu/faculty/campbell/enl311/aufram.html (October 28, 1999).
Harriss, Sharon M. “Introduction to Mary Rowlandson.” The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1988. Lauter, Paul, Ed. 340-342.
Rowlandson, Mary. “A Narrative of the Captivity and Restauration of Mrs. Mary Rowlandson.” The Heath Anthology of American Literature. Ed. Paul Lauter. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 1983. 343-366.
Wilson, Harriet. Our Nig; or Sketches from the life of a Free Black. New York: Vintage Books, 1983.
“In [a captivity narrative] a single individual, usually a woman, stands passively under the strokes of evil, awaiting rescue by the grace of God.” – Richard Slotkin.
Essay on Obsession in Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Obsession in Frankenstein and Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
Webster defines obsession to be “Compulsive, often anxious preoccupation with a fixed idea or unwanted emotion.” Or, “A compulsive, usually irrational idea or emotion.” The strange thing about obsession is the absolute inability of the person, once obsessed, to understand their own actions in retrospect. Both Victor Frankenstien, of Marry Shelley’s Frankenstein, and Henry Jekyll, of Robert Louis Stevenson’s The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde fit the criteria of one who is obsessed.
With Victor Frankenstien, obsession came in the form of a lust for fame. Victor’s own word reflect his inability to understand or control his own actions. “a groan burst from his heaving breast. … he spoke, in broken accents: Unhappy man! Do you share my madness? Have you drunk also of the intoxicating draught? Hear me; let me reveal my tale, and you will dash the cup from your lips!” Victor describes his actions as those of a man possessed by “madness,” or one who is “intoxicated.” In his refusal to take personal responsibility for his actions, he blames (four times ) destiny or fate. Victor’s actions are those of a man possessed by his own desires, turning a blind eye to the possible consequences of his actions until the completion of the event by which he was obsessed. Upon succeeding in reanimating a dead body, or more accurately the composition of parts from various dead bodies from both human and animal bodies, Victor recoils in horror. “How can I describe my emotions at …
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…f for, are of no concern when compared to those of Victor and Henry. And yet, I think of them as being quite destructive in my own world.
I suppose that by reading these novels, I can learn from their mistakes. Or, perhaps more honestly, I am obsessed with the vicarious thrill and terror that I experience through them. I hope, for my sake, that the former is true. Perhaps the reason I enjoyed these readings so much is that I identify with both Victor and Henry to a small extent. I know from experience that I am capable of being captured by an idea or desire. Perhaps the reason I so vehemently abhor the actions of these two characters is that I secretly fear that I would be susceptible to the same weaknesses that they were. Indeed, perhaps we all are.