Below are five major points highlighted in Hannah Croft's The Bondwoman's Narrative.
Race. A prominent theme in the book is racial relations in the United States. Crafts, in the preface of the story, discusses how she aims to show how slavery dehumanized both whites and blacks (though, obviously, primarily black people). Many moments throughout the novel highlight racism in the American south. In the beginning of the novel, Hannah, a young girl who is enslaved, learns to read from an older white woman. The white woman is reprimanded for teaching her, highlighting the racist laws of the time. Hannah runs from the plantation where she is enslaved, along with the mistress, who is of mixed race. The two are imprisoned for escaping. Hannah is sold back into slavery. At one time, her new owner wears blackface.
Mental health. In various moments, the novel considers how slavery poorly impacts the mental well-being of enslaved people and of slave owners. The mistress of the home she is first sold into loses her sanity while the two enslaved people are on the run. The young woman is mixed-race but passes for some time as white. Her racial identity is discovered, and she is forced to flee with Hannah. The two spend the night in a shack where a murder recently took place. The mistress starts to go crazy, as there is blood everywhere. A little later in the story, the two are in prison, where they meet Mrs. Wright. She is a kind older white woman who is in jail for helping a young girl escape slavery.
Freedom. Throughout the story, Hannah attempts to fight for her freedom. She flees various dangerous situations and ultimately runs for the north. The story portrays the ways in which the south imprisoned and enslaved blacks and any whites who dared to help.
Humanity. This brutal story outlines the many ways that slavery dehumanized black people and brings into question the lack of humanity of whites. At one point in the story, the mistress of Hannah’s owner attempts to silence her and take revenge by arranging for her to be raped. The evil in this plot highlights the lack of humanity in the antebellum south.
Survival. Hannah exhibits a great amount of skill as she, in various scenarios, escapes imminent death. She is able to read situations brought in front of her and avoid many deadly moments. For example, she becomes aware of the mistress’ plans to have her raped, and this is when she escapes to the north. In addition, Hannah is able to maintain her sanity through some incredibly evil moments.