In the Book of Negroes, by Lawrence Hill, there is a clear difference in the roles of men and women and this is especially shown through the treatment of Aminata, a women going through the experience of being a female slave. Through all the terrible disadvantages that Aminata experiences, her bravery is outstanding and she successfully sticks up for what she believes in against all the odds.
As I finished this book and look back at it from a feminist theory perspective, I seemed to notice that there was a definite difference between the treatment and image between men and women. On the beginning of the novel, when you are introduced to the parents of Aminata you are exposed to the difference of roles as the father was a Jeweler who was making the money and the mother did more of the cleaning, cooking and also delivered babies. Aminata was exposed to the difference of roles from a young age and noticed it: “I remember wondering, within a year or two of taking my first steps, why only men sat to drank tea and converse, and why women were always busy”. This shows that early on there is a belief that the men are more important than women. Georgia was also a character that was exposed to the inferiority to men in the novel. Georgia was another women who had to do the dirty work for the men. Georgia had to cook the food that the men brought her, she had to take care of all the sick people and she had to do all of the other dirty work such as cleaning and helping the men when the need it. As the book goes on you are introduced to Dolly. Dolly was a servant that worked for the Lindos, when Aminata arrived. Dolly had the typical duties that most of the women had throughout this story like cleaning, cooking and all the shopping. Throughout the novel it is very obvious that the women were looked at as lower class people, and they always had to do the dirty work for the men otherwise they were considered a liability to the men.
As I previously talked about the roles of the women in the novel, I think I should talk about the time this took place to help you better understand the situation. This Novel was a story that took place in the late 1700’s to early 1800’s. At this time the views of everything was much different then now which is why women were treated as less. The white man was inferior to everyone at this point of time, so there was clear exposure to sexism for the women at the time. At this time women were looked at as property of men, and they had to do the work that men did not want to do. They were looked at as a much less contribution to society then men were. Women were expected to get married, get children and help their husband and if they did not do this people would immediately judge them, which made Aminata half a hint of hesitance towards going back home: “If I ever did make it home, I knew the one question that people would ask: Where are your husband and children?”(Hill 376). The roles that women were supposed to be held to did not stop Aminata from trying to overcome everything she has experienced, which is what made her such a powerful character.
Now that I told you about the typical woman in this story, let me tell you about Aminata. Aminata was taken from her family and home to become a slave in the USA when she was 11 years old. Even as young as Aminata was you would expect her to not know what to do and be hopeless, but she was different… she was very wise and brave and had hope that she would escape. Aminata had a dream that she would escape her situation and one day teach people what she had gone through in order to help them out. I felt that Aminata was different especially when she stood up to Appleby even through the humiliation and threats he was giving her as punishment. Appleby even threatened the ownership of the baby Aminata was pregnant with when he yelled “You don’t own that baby any more than you own that wool on your head. They both belong to me”. Aminata had the odds against her as women and a slave but that dud not stop her. Aminata used her bravery and wisdom for power and stopped working for Appleby which led her to a much better situation with the Lindos. Even though she has escaped an awful situation she was not happy until she was completely free. She used her power and eventually escaped from Lindo while a revolution happened in New York. From that point she got from Nova Scotia back to Africa and eventually got to a happy place in her life when she got to speak on her story and reunite herself with her long lost daughter. Near the end of the book the British said they needed “A human face for our fight…. A woman. An African. A liberated slave who has risen up, self-taught”and this was exactly what
Aminata has become even through all the disadvantages she was faced with. Through that little bit of wisdom and braveness she showed as a young 11 year old, she turned that into power and determination and did not back down until she reached the life she wanted.
This story is amazing because even though Aminata was a women who was looked at as a less important human than a man was, she blocked all that out and reached the success that she had wanted from the first day she was abducted. The fact that women had specific roles did not stop her from becoming powerful and overcoming all the men she had to face on her fight to freedom. Hill does a great job with showing the capabilities everyone has, as long as the stick their mind to it. I am very pleased with this book and sad it has come to an end, but it has taught me some very valuable lessons and I definitely recommend the novel to any of you.
Hill, Lawrence. The book of negroes: illustrated edition. Toronto: HarperCollins Publishers Ltd, 2012. Print.