In James Michener's Chesapeake, How do the character developments of Pentaquod and Rosalind compare to each other for bringing US history alive?
Closely tied to the landscape, the characters of Pentaquod and Rosalind give faces to the people who lived in their time and place in history; in addition, the reader obtains the history of the Chesapeake Bay area through the eyes of those who first discover it and its wonders, then, witness the chronicle of the momentous events that created the new land.
In "Voyage One 1583," the reader is introduced to the pristine Chesapeake Bay through the eyes of Native American Pentaquod,
And there it was! The Chesapeake! In Pentaquod's language....The great river in which fish with hard shell coverings around....
Further in the narrative, the observations of Pentaquod presage some of the future history of the area. For example,
The more he explored the two deep cuts which came close to bisecting the island, the more he realized that the two arms must meet, cutting the island in half....
Pentaquod has left his warring tribe, attaining the courage of the adventurer which is "capable of sustaining him in a confrontation with the whole world." He adapts to life with the Nanticoke tribe who flee into the marshes when they must hide from their larger and more powerful enemies. For a time, he stays with this tribe and acts as their chief, marries and has children; however, he explains that he must return to the "one spot where two waters meet" and live there. But, the Nanticokes tell him of the arrival of the Great Canoe; Pentaquod responds that he has dreamt of such a thing. After two years of peace, a canoe comes toward Pentaquod to announce that the Great Canoe has returned.
In "Voyage Five 1701," Rosalind Janney who is betrothed to Fitzhugh Steed and forced to leave her beautiful Virginian home, finds within her the spirit of the young pioneers of America as she adapts to her environment and its drawbacks, such as the fact that her new husband has a woman secretly in the marshes. Further, she hires men to improve the facade of her home while she protects Steed's lovely daughter Evelyn from marriage to a dolt that the young woman does not love, arresting the wedding at the last moment.
Her fierce spirit carries Rosalind through many a crisis; she encourages and teaches Mark, she orders her foolish sisters to conserve and save their family's plantation from ruin, she fights against pirates and exacts her revenge against them for the deaths of two of her children, she stands alongside the Quaker Mrs. Paxmore with Nelly Turlock, the mother of her husband's bastard children, in protest against the whipping of women. Truly, then, Rosalind carries the reader on a historical journey of the Bay area and its inhabitants and history of managing a tobacco plantation, dealing with piracy, protesting the whipping of women, and decrying the evils of slavery.
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