Hammon’s voyage begins on Christmas Day, thus signaling to readers that a new life of temporary freedom and personal discovery is about to commence for the adventurous slave. Soon Hammon’s experiences at sea reveal that his journey is one of harrowing transition from innocence to maturity, one in which, as he learns about himself and the world, he is tested for strength of character.
At the beginning of his story, Hammon illustrates his naïveté in the account of how he and his companions are easily deceived when they are stranded off the coast of Florida. Hammon is first fooled by the appearance of the Indian canoes, which look like rocks. Then, when the canoes begin to move, the shipwrecked men see the English colors hoisted in one of them, and they think that they are about to be rescued by friendly forces. The men advance and fall into the hands of the Indians.
To stress how his perilous adventures chasten him and test his character, Hammon graphically depicts the terrors of his Indian and Spanish captivities. The Indians threaten to roast him alive, and he lives in fear until he falls into the hands of the Spanish Catholics in Havana. During his years of captivity in Cuba, Hammon is able to withstand the threat to his Protestant faith posed by the Catholics. He gives some indication that he views their religion as being decadent and materialistic when he describes his service to the bishop. Hammon makes a point of mentioning how the...
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