Summary (Masterplots II: African American Literature, Revised Edition)
The Bondwoman’s Narrative, a nineteenth century novel by Hannah Crafts, is believed to be at least partly autobiographical, and its narrator shares the name of the author. It is impossible, however, to determine how much of the text is a factual account of the Crafts’s life and how much is fiction based on the author’s general experience. In the novel, Hannah—a young slave girl on a North Carolina plantation—demonstrates an unusual desire to learn to read. A kind old couple that lives nearby breaks the law by teaching her. They also convert her to Christianity. However, the couple’s actions are discovered, and they are sent to jail. The deeply saddened Hannah, however, grows up working as a trusted house slave.
At her master’s large wedding, Hannah notices Mr. Trappe, a stern-looking older man dressed in black, following the bride, who is Hannah’s new mistress. Soon after the wedding, Mr. Trappe is ensconced in a room of his own at the plantation: The mysterious lawyer rarely lets the young bride out of his sight. Hannah’s new mistress is miserable, and Hannah comes to believe that Mr. Trappe holds an enormous secret over her head. As time goes on, Hannah and the Mistress become devoted to each other. The Mistress becomes ill and rarely leaves the house. Then, Hannah discovers her secret: Her mistress is biracial. Under North Carolina law, she is a slave. Unless the Mistress obeys him, Mr. Trappe has threatened to tell the...
(The entire section is 662 words.)
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