With 113 slaves, William Robbins dominates the slave-owning class in Manchester County. One was about a man who'd sold a cow to someone thinking that the cow didn't give milk. Travis sold the cow thinking it would not give milk, but now he wanted it back and was threatening violence. Even after Oden Peoples sells him back into slavery, Augustus refuses to act as a slave. Moses confronts Caldonia again about his freedom, and after he leaves, Loretta begins protecting the house with a pistol. Ellwood is Elias and Celeste's young son. Caldonia begins to worry about the missing slaves and to cool to Moses' affection. Jones sometimes jumps ahead to the twentieth century in a single sentence, for example, when he refers to the fate of Celeste and Elias's children, and he focuses at length on episodes from Henry's youth. That night, Alice goes out wandering, singing and dancing, but the slave patrollers leave her alone. There, another nightmarish scenario unfolds: Cilka, now 18, and the other women in her hut are routinely raped at night by criminal-class prisoners with special “privileges”; by day, the near-starving women haul coal from the local mines in frigid weather. Calvin and Fern leave afterwards, and on her way home Fern meets Jebediah Dickinson, who claims that her husband owes him five hundred dollars. Vernon, John, "People Who Owned People: Two Historical Novels Deal with the Peculiar Institution of Slavery and its Power to Distort Human Life," in New York Times Book Review, August 31, 2003, p. 9. This nonlinear storytelling technique has the effect of weaving a tapestry of history around the reader. The fact that Fern is unable to conceptualize human love except as an interaction based on ownership and property is likely due to her internalization of the slaveholding ethos that runs so strongly through her community. The storyline. As Jones suggests with his narrative technique, which makes huge, omniscient jumps across decades and even centuries, the issues of the novel bear on widely divergent historical periods. The novel chronicles his life, the lives of his family members, and the lives of people he encountered in the community. Barnum protests, but Travis spits on him, pushes him down, and threatens to shoot him. Most free blacks, even former slaves, are indoctrinated by the ideology of slavery enough to long to be masters themselves. He goes to Counsel's boardinghouse and tells him that he has "but one more time to do this." He is perhaps the most important figure in Henry Townsend's life. ", We Insist: A Timeline Of Protest Music In 2020, A 'Talk of the Nation' Discussion on Teaching about Slavery, PBS 'NewsHour': An Interview with Author Edwards Jones, Library of Congress: Free Blacks in the Antebellum Period. Anderson Frazier is a Canadian pamphlet writer who interviews Fern Elston in August of 1881. In some ways, this is the inevitable result of the legal system he is charged with upholding, but it is also due to Skiffington's feelings that blacks are inferior to whites. Today: As of late 2006, President George W. Bush, who is related to Franklin Pierce through his mother, is increasingly unpopular, in large part because of the disastrous aftermath of the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. The fact that Robbins's intense blackouts occur when he returns from his visits to his black lover, Philomena, suggests that this relationship is part of the reason that Robbins is mentally ill. Philomena is not the first black woman with whom Robbins has children, however. He contracts smallpox from Saskia and spreads it through Counsel's plantation, though he shows no symptoms and does not know that he carries it. Following Henry's death, Augustus is kidnapped and sold back into slavery, where he dies rather than serve. Novels for Students. Calvin is an abolitionist, and he feels guilty about the fact that his family owns slaves, but he does little to act on his convictions. After Henry pays him for cutting off a third of Elias's ear, for example, Oden offers to do the rest for free. He grows restless and expects to marry Caldonia, and when he sees that this will not happen, he becomes depressed and then attempts to run away. 132-33. Moses pleaded for Robbins not to separate him from his wife, but Robbins ignored him. William Robbins's slave Rita is close friends with Mildred, and she watches over Henry as his second mother when Augustus buys Mildred's freedom. Henry's slave overseer, Moses, wanders into the rainy woods and masturbates, while Henry's wife, Caldonia, sits with her husband as she has done for the previous six days and nights. Perhaps the predominant theme in The Known World is the nature of the power and distinction that human beings desired to hold over one another in the southern United States during the period leading up to the Civil War. It was as if the author Jones was using a hand-held camera and no stabilizer so that the images were jumpy and out of focus.