OurNig by Harriet Wilson
Longbefore the abolishment of slavery, many of the black Americanssuffered at the hands of their white masters. They were expected tobe loyal, remain dutiful and obedient to their masters, many of thisindividuals were employed in the farms while others worked in thehouses to attend to the needs of their masters. In many cases, mostof these slaves were mistreated and heavily punished for committinglight mistakes. The book Our Nig by Harriet Wilson is one such bookthat illustrates the plight of the black slaves in the hands of theirwhite masters. This paper, therefore, is composed of comments onFrodo`s newly discovered assertiveness and independence. It alsogives an opinion on whether she can be viewed as a hero, for shemanaged to survive the hard conditions of slavery (Newman 65).
Fradofound herself a slave after the death of their father when theirmother got married to a white man for she was tired of the way shewas being looked down upon by her fellow whites. Frado was handedover to Mrs. Baltimore who was so cruel to her and mistreated herdespite her young age. She was constantly scolded, wiped and abusedfor no genuine reasons, mainly because her master and her daughterdisliked blacks whom, they referred to as "nigars" orpeople of color. In spite of the Mrs. Bellmont and her daughter`shatred and ill-treatments to Frado, she was often sympathized by Mr.Bellmont and his son James, who protected her whenever they werearound. Their presence, therefore, freed Frado from beatings andscolding from Mrs. Baltimore (Araújo 29). Frado found her firstindependence when she was allowed to eat on the same plate as theBellmont’s, but ironically she gave the plate first to her dogFido, which was given to her by James who had realized how lonely shewas during that time (de Leon 98). By giving the plate to the dog,she wanted to express her assertiveness and anger towards the way shewas being treated at the Baltimore`s house. According to her, shethought she as being compared to a dog which was an infringement onher rights as a human being as indicated in the bill of rights.
Thesecond form of assertiveness and independence that Frado reflects inthe novel is that she leaves the Bellmont’s house to attend theteachings in the church, this is an opportunity she utilizes so as tolearn how to read and write. The ability to read and write is a formof independence, as being able to read, relieves one from beingignorant. Her ability to read therefore helped her deliver theinformation to Mrs. Bellmont concerning the death of his children.The ability to write may also guarantee her the freedom to expressherself and opinion in the form of writings (de Leon 46). Onrealizing that Frado attends lessons, Mrs. Bellmont becomes furiousand prohibits her from living the house unless she has an errand.
Afterthe death of Mrs. Bellmont`s daughter, Frodo`s assertiveness grew andshe constantly asked Mrs. Bellmont`s a chain of questions which shenever asked before. It is because, she was taking advantage of thedepression of Mrs. Belmont following the estranged news of herdaughter`s sickness, then followed with her death. Frado`sassertiveness is a reflection that she feels good to see hertormentor feel pain just like her.
Afterhaving been advised by Mr. Belmont to defend herself in case someonemay try to without any unjustifiable mistakes. On the day that Fradohad gone out to look for firewood, Mrs. Belmont went to search forher thinking that she had taken a longer time in the fields. As shewas about to strike her as usual, Frado shouted at her to stop andthreaten never to work again for her if she when to beat her. Fromthis sense of assertiveness, we can see how courageous Frodo hadgrown to be, to an extent that she had the guts to demand herfreedom.
AfterFrado refused to be punished, Mrs. Belmont was forced to changecertain things in the way that she used to handle her. Starting fromthat day at the woodpile, Frodo had become independent now and it wasupon her to ensure that she does the right thing, she also stood todefend herself against any form of injustice whenever his right wasbeing stepped on. This was how assertive Frodo had become for thesake of defending her body from being beaten (Tate 98).
Thelong overshadowed fear in Frado had been long buried, she wasplanning to confront Mrs. Belmond and tell her that she wanted tolive to another place but she decided to wait till she was eighteenyears old. When the time for Frado to live Belmont`s household came,her independence, and assertiveness were reflected in the way sherejected Mrs. Belmont`s offer to stay with her further. She boldlytold her that "she wanted to seek the comfort of other places.
Afterliving the Bellmont`s homestead, Frado moves to different households,this is, therefore, a reflection of her independence and freedom fromslavery (Boyle 50). By being an independent woman she was able tolook for different job opportunities from which she saved some of herearnings to buy her things. During this time of being an independentwoman, Frodo was attached to emotionally to another black slave andfrom there she was able to fall in love for the first time. They gotmarried and stayed with his husband until the time he left to seekfor more resources that could help him sustain his family. Frodo gotpregnant and gave birth and by this, she was able to feel theadvantages of having freedom.
Frodocannot be seen as a hero for surviving through all these struggleswhile she was a slave, but instead, we can view her as a strong womanwho is determined to live a free and independent life. This isbecause it is her determination to gain her freedom that kept herpersevering till the end (Shaw 118).
Insummation, the plight of Frado as a slave is an indication of thekind of treatment that most of the black American slaves weresubjected to by their masters. As a slave, one was denied of freedomsbut instead, they were expected to work for their masters and in mostcases they got punished for making simple mistakes. In some cases,some slaves revolted against their masters to get back theirfreedoms. As we learn from this story of Frado, she is insulted,beaten and wiped by her master for unreasonable offenses, but inspite of such treatments, she has to persevere because she is not afree woman. She plans to free herself from the bondage of slavery butshe isn’t sure on which way get back her freedom. She threatens hermaster from torturing her by being assertive. When Frado reachedeighteen years old she finally granted her freedom person. As a freeperson she get married and give birth and carry out a normal lifejust like other free men.
Newman,Simon P. "" Ingreat slavery and bondage":white labor and the development of plantation slavery in BritishAmerica." (2015): 59-82.
Araújo,Eliza de Souza Silva, and Liane Schneider. "OurNig, by Harriet E. Wilson: Frado and the characterization ofoppression."Caderno Espaço Feminino 29.1 (2016).
Boyle,Elizabeth. "‘Twistingherself into all shapes’: blackface minstrelsy and comicperformance in Harriet Wilson’s Our Nig."European journal of American studies 9.1 (2014).
Shaw,Stephanie J. "ToLive an Antislavery Life: Personal Politics and the Antebellum BlackMiddle Class by Erica L. Ball (review)." TheJournal of the Civil War Era 4.1 (2014): 118-121.
deLeon, Cedric. "Blackfrom White: How the Rights of White and Black Workers Became “Labor”and “Civil”Rights after the US Civil War." Labor Studies Journal (2016):0160449X16676417.