What is the book trying to teach us about life?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I think that one of the most powerful lessons that the book teaches is what Faulkner might call the capacity of human beings to suffer.  This capacity for endurance is what eventually fosters the hope for survival and triumph.  Consider Isabel's plight as an example of this life lesson.  Isabel's enslavement is brutal.  There is degradation, physical and emotional abuse, as well as her own psychological condition in which she seeks to understand her own adolescent condition in the shackles of slavery.  In this, she could have quit.  Yet, she did not.  It is not an individualist exceptionalism that Anderson stresses as much as the ability to persevere in trying to establish one's voice.  Using Isabel's predicament as an example, Anderson strives to bring out the idea that individuals can strive to establish their voice in any and all circumstance. Isabel realizes that her own condition might preclude a full acknowledgement of her voice.  Yet, she does not let slavery define her. She does not take the form of the world around her.  In this, there is a life lesson.  Individuals can strive to be heard, to have their experiences authenticated without fully capitulating to their surroundings.  This becomes a vitally important life lesson. At the end of the narrative, Isabel has become an inspirational figure in her ability to persevere.  The same resolve within her is something that the modern reader can take away and apply, to differing degrees, to their own existence.  In the final analysis, it is this capacity to suffer that not only defines human beings, but also enables them to find some hope of triumph.  This becomes a lesson emerging from Anderson's work.

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