(continued from part one)
Miriam: I agree James, it belongs on the same level as Beloved and the others. I’d also add The Known World by Edward P. Jones to that definitive list. The competition between the slaves struck me too, especially when it pitted women against men (like over the ownership of Cora’s garden patch). They had to do whatever it took to survive, even if it meant turning on their own.
I’ve wondered why Whitehead decided to use a female protagonist. It’s probably because of her vulnerability. Lizzie, I liked Cora too, but she was something of a prism to me, a way to view the larger world Whitehead created. Her persona was defined more by the actions she takes in a few key scenes rather than by her thoughts and feelings. It’s an interesting way to create a character. When I think of her I immediately go to the scenes where she violently defends her small garden patch, or when she throws her body over a young slave boy to protect him from a whipping, or when she’s acting out the slave scenes in the museum and pausing to give the onlookers the evil eye ... continued