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Alice names her baby Hagar because, in the Bible, Hagar was a slave and was freed.
Dana knows that she has a relative named Hagar, so she is aware that Alice is going to name the baby that before she’s even conceived. In fact, Dana actively awaits Hagar’s arrival through most of the book.
Rufus said it was the ugliest name he had ever heard, but it was Alice’s choice, and he let it stand. (p. 234)
Alice explains that if Hagar had been a boy, she would have called him Ishmael. She gives her children Biblical names. She named her son Joseph. She says that in the Bible, people do not stay slaves.
Dana understands why Alice chose the name. She is trying to set her children up to be free, at least in her mind. Dana also wonders whether it is wise.
“Someday Rufus is going to get religion and read enough of the Bible to wonder about those children’s names.” (p. 234)
Dana cannot trace Hagar after the fire, but knows she had children. After all, she is the first of Dana’s line. She is not sure if Hagar was a slave or freed after Dana killed Rufus in the fire. Dana notes that whatever happened to Hagar, at least she lived long enough to be freed by the Fourteenth Amendment.
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