Suffering in Harriet Wilson's Our Nig Essay

Suffering in Harriet Wilson's Our Nig Essay

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Harriet Wilson’s Our Nig is a novel that presents the harshness of racial prejudice during the 19th century combined with the traumas of abandonment. The story of Frado, a once free-spirited mulatto girl abandoned by her white mother, unfolds as she develops into a woman. She is faced with all the abuse and torment that Mrs. Belmont, the antagonist, could subject her to. Still she survives to obtain her freedom. Through the events and the accounts of Frado’s life the reader is left with a painful reality of the lives of indentured servants.
Though the novel is not told from Frado’s perspective, her story becomes more sympathizing and sentimental from a third person narrative. Wilson uses her supporting characters to express Frado’s emotions and to show her development. Through her style, the reader becomes more aware of the Belmont family and society’s prejudices through how they react to Frado’s suffering. For instance Aunt Abby, one of the more sympathizing characters, says “we found a seat under a shady tree, and there I took the opportunity to combat the notions she seemed to entertain respecting the loneliness of her condition and want of sympathizing friends” (54). While Aunt Abby makes an effort to console Frado, there is no real sympathy in her words. They are mechanical and rehearsed. Aunt Abby does not genuinely care for Frado but she does pity her situation.
Unlike Aunt Abby, James offers a more sincere regard for Frado. He buys her a puppy and often protects her from his mother’s brutal thrashings. He even intends to bring her home with him to live. He does not possess the indifference of his father or the cowardice of his sister, Jane. Being one of the few characters who emits a genuine aura of concern James i...


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...mont’s but is sadly disappointed by her unfortunate state in the end of the novel.
Slave narratives are not meant to be uplifting but this story brings depressive reading to a whole new level. Frado’s story is one of unrelenting abuse and pain. Through Wilson’s style the reader understands every point of view and especially the views of prejudice and racism. The title “Our Nig” relates one of the most insulting realities of Frado’s existence. She was property in a sense. Her labor and her efforts were equated to those of a horse that could be broken when necessary. Frado’s encounters and relationships further distinguish this novel from other slave narratives. This story shows what society and what the human spirit is capable of. People can cause the immense suffering of others but People can also rise up from the depths of despair and overcome great obstacles.

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