Examine the effect of Jefferson's Declaration of Idependence on Isabel.

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Jefferson's document casts a large shadow on Isabel's predicament.  Jefferson's writing is a "promissory note" in terms of it being a document that clearly states that there is a concept of freedom and human beings cannot be in servitude towards another. Jefferson's document was greeted with affirmation, almost to the point where it was evident that he was right.   It is interesting to examine how Isabel sees a document in which her freedom is guaranteed being rejected by White society.  Isabel poses the issue in similar terms:

Ruth and me are free, Pastor. Miss Finch freed us in her will. Momma, too, if she had lived. It was done up legal, on paper with wax seals.

Miss Finch's will is a form of "Declaration of Independence" for Isabel and Ruth.  Yet, this document is denied by Mr. Robert.  In this sense, Isabel recognizes that when a document stating freedom for White society is written, it is affirmed and acknowledged.  When a similar document is written for slaves, it is denied.  It is this vein where Isabel is able to understand the issue of freedom in two lights, one for White America and one for slaves.  This dichotomy is the one that drives Isabel for much of the novel, providing the basis for her characterization.  The division between Jefferson's promises of freedom and America's reality of slavery is where Isabel lives as a hyphenated American.


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