In Patrick Chamoiseau's novel Texaco, what do we learn about Esternome as a character whose life represents some of the difficulties created by a slave society?

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Tamara K. H. eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Patrick Chamoiseau's novel Texaco, even after being freed, the character Esternome, father of Marie-Sophie, suffers from slavery's effects.
Esternome is freed by his master, even before slavery was abolished in 1848 in Martinique, an island colonized by France, for saving his master's life. Despite freedom, Esternome continues to live in poverty and to only be able to find work as a servant. He lives in a hut and since he has never had an education, the only trade he knows is carpentry. As Marie-Sophie phrases it, according to New York Times book reviewer Leonard Michaels, "My papa Esternome hadn't done school ... In his pumpkin [head] he only had carpentry methods at his disposal and nothing of the 50 dozen pages of the dictionary useful to make" (as cited in "Mother Tongues"). In other words, Esternome was only educated in carpentry and had a very small vocabulary. As a result, he lived the rest of his life serving others as a carpenter and being poor. He frequently wandered the city of Saint-Pierre looking for work.

Unlike other slaves, who once freed left for France where they were treated as "human again," Esternome remained in Saint-Pierre. While other freed slaves were taught "strange know-hows (wig making, silversmithing, clockmaking)" and even learned enough skills to become accountants and lawyers, Esternome remained with his knowledge of carpentry and sadly did not advance (as cited in "Mother Tongues"). As a result, other slaves were able to rid themselves of poverty as Esternome could not.

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