Themes and Characters
When Amos first arrives in America, Caleb Copeland, a Quaker weaver, impulsively buys him at the Boston slave market. Caleb and his wife Celia oppose slavery and several times offer Amos his freedom. The Copeland children, especially Roxanna, help Amos overcome his shyness, and he becomes a part of their family. When Caleb Copeland dies, financial considerations force his family to sell Amos to Ichabod Richardson, a tanner. The Richardsons, too, treat Amos relatively well, and Ichabod Richardson eventually promises him freedom in exchange for payments into a trust fund set up for Mrs. Richardson. When Richardson dies, his wife signs a quitclaim, freeing Amos from the necessity of further payments, and offers him the chance to purchase the tanning business. In Jaffrey, New Hampshire, the Reverend Laban Ainsworth befriends Amos and welcomes the Fortune family to the community, renting them an acre of land for a tannery and organizing the neighbors to build a house for the family. Amos chooses the Reverend Ainsworth to write his epitaph.
Amos's first two marriages result from his desire to help women who remind him of his crippled sister, Ath-mun. Amos works to buy and marry first Lily, the sickly slave of Jonathan Twombley, and then Lydia, a crippled seamstress and Josiah Bowers's slave. Each woman dies about a year after marrying Amos, but he hopes that freeing them will result in a sort of cosmic balance of kindness toward Ath-mun, if she needs it.
Amos's third wife. Violet, is younger and stronger than the other two. On November 9, 1779, Amos buys Violet and her daughter, Celyndia, from James Baldwin. Violet helps with the tanning business, and both she and Celyndia become skilled weavers. Amos gradually teaches them the meaning of freedom, and eventually Violet uses that freedom to make him reconsider his decision to use their life's savings to buy a home for Lois Burdoo, a widow whose family has remained poor despite the town's frequent assistance. After a sort of consultation with Monadnock Mountain, Amos acknowledges Violet's superior wisdom in this instance and uses the money to buy land and ensure his own family's financial security.
Although there are several free black people in the various towns where...
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