Louisa May Alcott in My Contraband
Louisa May Alcott is an American Novelist best known as the author of the novel “Little Women”. Louisa was born in November 1982, grew up in Germantown- Washington D.C and was known to be an abolitionist, feminist and also a naturalist. Being a naturalist meant that she believed that nothing existed beyond the natural earth i.e. no such thing as spirituality or the supernatural. Her family suffered from financial difficulties and so Alcott had to work to support her family in an early age. She penned the story “My Contraband” (1869) which was formerly known as “The Brothers” (1863). Contraband was a black slave who escaped to or was brought within union lines (Alcott 759). In “My Contraband”, Louisa May Alcott utilizes the concept of naturalism to condemn racism in the African American community.
Bob, who is the protagonist in this story and later on in the story is known as Robert Dane, was a contraband who assisted Miss Dane as her servant in the hospital with a patient named Master Ned. Miss Dane who is the narrator and a nurse, later on discovers that Robert is trying to murder Master Ned. Miss Dane, who has fallen in love with Robert’s personality is shocked by what Robert wants to do and successfully convinces Robert not to commit murder. Because of this event, Robert reveals the reasons behind his attempt to murder Master Ned. He and Master Ned were brothers (half brothers) and their father loved Robert because he looked just like him except that their skin was colored differently. For this reason, Robert narrates all the sufferings he underwent at the mercy of Marster Ned. Later, during the Fort Wagner attack in 1863; Master Ned confronts Robert during the war and kills him.
One of the characteristics of naturalism the author uses to criticize racism in this story is Greed. The author brings out Marster Ned’s greedy nature when Robert narrates his story to Miss Dane,
I married her, all I could, Ma’am; it warn’t much, but we was true to one another till Marster Ned come home a year after an’ made hell fer both of us. He sent my old mother to be used up in his rice-swamp in Georgy; he found me with my pretty Lucy, an’ though young Miss cried, an’I prayed to him on my knees, an’ Lucy run away, he wouldn’t have no mercy; he brought her back, an’—took her, Ma’am (Alcott 766).
Master Ned, being a white and already being well placed economically and socially in the society than Robert, still took from Robert the only thing he had and loved: his wife Lucy. Master Ned did this wicked act because Robert was Black. He could not have done this to another white guy. This act of Master Ned portrays how much he wanted everything for himself, irrespective of the fact that Lucy did not want and love him, it did not matter to him. Marster Ned is just a representative of the world today and how people want everything for themselves. All he cared about was his interest and satisfaction. Apart from being greedy, he was also brutal.
The author also uses Brute Beast to condemn racism. By portraying Marster Ned as a villainous and physically abusive character the author shows racism at its most extreme. In the story, one will realize that the protagonist had a baby with his wife Lucy who was not found. “I never saw my baby, Missis” (Alcott 769) said Robert to Miss Dane. When Robert mentioned about his missing baby to Miss Dane her eyes were full of tears, till she could no longer see (Alcott 769). She did not know that this was the tragedy that Robert had gone through at the mercy of Master Ned. Robert goes further to tell Miss Dane “They whipped me till I couldn’t stand, an’ they sold me further to the south. Yer thought I was a white man once, -- look here” (Alcott 766). He tore his clothes and showed the narrator his back, it was horrible. This is a sign that marster Ned was brutal and wicked. Later, Miss Dane made an inquiry about Lucy from the captain;...
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