Book 2 -3
The story picks up again in the present where Aminata is at the meeting with the abolitionists who work hard to abolish slavery. ” Even if you destroy every slave ship, I say, what remains of the men and women already in bondage?” This is a memorable quote that displays Aminata’s losing hope and I can’t but help agree with her. However, the bright side is that even if one slave ship is destroyed, hundreds of slaves would be set free. In modern day, the abolitionists seem to treat Aminata with respect but they do not fully welcome her. Aminata feels the same way when she states,”The abolitionists may well call me their equal, but their lips do not yet say my name and their ears do not yet hear my story. Not the way I want to tell it. ” So she picks up her quill and starts to recall her experiences after coming off the ship.
All the captives (slaves), are brought to an island off the coast of the toubabu’s land (Sullivan’s Island). They are all on the brink of dying and for me one of the saddest moments was when Aminata thought that she was burning from the smoke that came from her mouth. They were living in such horrible conditions and practically freezing to death yet Aminata had thought that someone lit her tongue on fire. Aminata’s innocence is heavily contrasted with the brutal conditions she is living in. This goes to say, how the mistreatment of children is even more wrong because children can feel terrible but they don’t know exactly what is happening to them. She is only able to keep herself from dying with the strong words of her friend Biton: ” Remember your mama and your papa, you carry them in your heart. Listen to them. They will tell you what to do.”
Another ship comes and they are again rounded up according to their medical conditions. At this point in the story, the inhumane treatment of these villagers from Animata’s community is unbelievable. It’s the second major point in the novel that I can feel my fingers tremble as I try to turn the pages because I can’t picture such cruel treatment of people. The toubabs seem to be doing the people a favour by examining their health conditions but the way they prod these people’s body’s like objects is disgusting. Not only are Aminata’s people publicly harassed in front of their community crowds but they also are publicly humiliated. If it isn’t enough pain to deal with the physical inflictions, the shame is something all the captives have to go through on a daily basis. Growing up in a progressive society that is more attentive to human rights leaves me baffled at all the horrific things people had to live through on a daily basis. Every page of this book was a new revelation to me. I love books because the difference from learning about the struggles of the past, with words and literature I can actually feel and live the things that the characters experience.
For Aminata as she recalls these experiences, she does not once complain or exclaim the unfairness. She simply lives through it and deals with the toubab head on. In a way, I can infer that even though Aminata is going through so much difficulty, she doesn’t fully comprehend all the things she’s going through. She only has her feelings to base her opinions but because her knowledge is not yet at her peak, she can’t make claims about the ill treatments she goes through.
After the voyages, a big part of Animata’s life is spent on Appleby’s Farm located in South Carolina. We learn that Appleby now owns Aminata and her friend Fomba who now are enslaved to his work due to the slave trade during the late 1700’s. They work on the fields for harvesting but prominently for the indigo plantation where they work to make indigo hues for clothing specifically Appleby’s. At the time Aminata arrives to “Master” Appleby’s farm, she is on the brink of death and if it isn’t for Georgia, who is also works for Appleby and nurses Aminata back to the health, then Aminata would have died from dehydration, illness, and exhaustion. During the time on the farm, some notable events happen! Due to Aminata’s quick mind to learn skills, she is often praised by Appleby and his assistant (Mamed). Unexpectedly the very scary and serious Mamed has made an offer to secretly teach Aminata how to read. As time goes on, Aminata is able to read, speak, and write in English but in order not to infuriate her Master she must act stupidly and not raise his suspicions. Since Aminata is a strong worker, very bright, and also beautiful it isn’t long before Appleby notices her. At this point in time, Aminata is a young lady that has only recently starting to have her menstrual cycle which makes the climax of Book 2 even more drastic: Appleby rapes Aminata. He rapes her out of anger as Aminata is still seeing Chekura and there relationship is budding. With jealousy he takes something from her that she wanted to save for her loved one: Chekura. This was the first time I read about rape in the first person and I saw it coming but it was so quick. Within the span of a few minutes, her life isn’t the same. For me, after that moment Aminata is an adult. She isn’t the innocent child she was before who didn’t understand all the things happening around her. Now she knows a lot more and begins to actually see the toubab’s treatments for what they really are. His words still echo through my brain and that is the control he has over her being and her everything.
The next major thing I wanted to discuss that was again heartbreaking and disgusting was what Appleby did to Aminata. When Aminata begins to recover from being sexually assaulted and her strength again shines through, despite everything that happenes to her, Appleby rips her newfound happiness away from her multiple of times. The first is when Aminata begins to feel like a real woman when she secretly marries her lover, Chekura, and she is impregnated. After a months go by, she has also grown out her hair beautifully. But when Appleby learns of her lover from the fact that her stomach has grown huge, he humiliates her by asking her to come into the big circle where all the workers on the plantation gather around. He asks her to strip naked in front of everyone and throw her fires into the fire that was just made. Despite what he asks of her Aminata states,” I made a decision then. He would do whatever he wanted, anyway. I was from Bayo and i had a child growing inside me and I would stand proud,” (pg.176). After he makes her throw her clothes in the fire, he commands her to scrubs herself in a small tub where everyone is watching. He then pours buckets of water over her and asks her to bend over or sit down. He then mocks her by grabbing her hair and taunts her to call her own hair, ‘wool’ which is very dehumanizing. Robinson Appleby then begins to snip all her hair. Aminata’s hair in a way is a symbol of her own beauty and strength. It reminded her that despite everything that she was still standing and it was also what she tried to grow out despite being raped. When Appleby cuts her hair until she is bald, she can’t help but cry. Aminata rarely cries and that was a moment that we so painful because something broke within her. She even goes to beg him to stop which she rarely does. Even when she was being raped, she just choked down her cries and stopped begging. He tortures her further by forcing her to look in the mirror. And as the book quotes, ” I screamed as I have never screamed before. I didn’t recognize myself. I had no clothes, no hair, no beauty, no womanhood,” (pg 178). The worst thing that Appleby could do to Aminata was strip her of her inner self and that was exactly what he did. All the physical and emotional pain Aminata went through she could handle because she believed in herself and her strength. But the moment he destroys that, she can barely live with herself.
It was March of 1761, when Aminata conceived her baby and called her boy Mamadu after her father. And for me I thought finally Aminata can have something to hold onto that can give her strength again. But being too naive I forgot about Appleby too soon. He comes in again to destroy her life. I have no words to describe the actions he did so I can only bring in the excerpt of the story which is in Aminata’s perspective.
“When my son Mamadu was just ten months old, i woke up in the middle of the night to his bawling. I rolled over to bring him close, to relieve his cries… My hand brushed against the bed of woven grasses. The bed. The air. My own body. Nothing else. I opened my eyes…. I jumped up, dizzy, confused and full like an unmilked cow, and there I saw Robinson Appleby put my baby into a man’s arms up on a carriage,” (pg 183).
I had thought the previous events Appleby could never surpass the next actions he does, but each time he has proven me wrong. Appleby sells Aminata’s baby through the slave trade.
“Bring back by baby,” I shouted./ He laughed in my face,” (pg 184).
If I could slap and hit Appleby in that moment I would with all my being. I can’t describe all the horrible words I could use to describe him. He laughed in her face!
The agony with which Aminata crumples to the ground fully reveals her desperation. She says,” I had never before wanted to kill a man. But I would have killed Robinson Appleby then. My heart and my body were screaming for Mamadu. But my baby was gone. Sold, sold, sold. Appleby would not say where,” (pg 184). I think at that point I was crying so hard for her because I could try to imagine all the trouble to conceive a baby and have given birth to such a precious little being that was mine. I mostly imagined what it would be like for my mother, and when I saw her face morphed into Aminata’s it was so hard to bear because to see a mother in pain because of her child is mortifying. I really don’t know how Aminata continually gets up from the ground to only be pushed even further down. Her baby was her light, the one good thing in her life and now it’s finally gone.
Her husband stopped visiting her and she felt it was her fault. She not only had guilt because she thought it was her fault but she had not fight in her anymore.
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