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In "The Slave Dancer," the section of the novel called "The Bight of Benin" is where Jessie's real reason for being brought on board "The Moonlight" really begins.
"When the ship arrives off the coast of Africa, all the preparations for taking on slaves are completed. They go up and down the coast, and the captain goes out at night in a small boat and deals with the African chiefs who are selling the slaves.
The horrors that Jessie has to endure from this point on in the novel affect him for the rest of his life. He sees just how terrible humanity can be. When the ship finally arrives off the coast of Cuba, the captain begins negoeations for the sale of the slaves to the Spaniard. The ship is attacked by a squall at the same time American sailors try to board. Jessie and the young black slave are trapped for days until the ship finally crashes and the hold door is opened. Everyone is dead. Jessie and Ras swim ashore and are saved by Daniel, an old run-away slave. The emotional climax is when the boys are separated. Ras is sent up north and Jessie walks home. He tells of his growth and his profession as an apothecary, his service in the Union Army and his marriage. Jessie also tells us that he can never again listen to music and he spends the rest of his life looking for Ras. Jessie is never freed from the memories of those terrible months on-board The Moonlight slave ship.
A story within a story. One is the tale of life on a slave ship from the moment they leave port in the United States and the tortuous journey back with the cargo of human life treated worse than animals. The other is the story of a young boy finding a way to survive the environment of the slave ship among the crew who have become desensitized to the horrors Jessie must endure.
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