What is a summary of Chapter One of Nightjohn by Gary Paulsen? 

What is a summary of Chapter One of Nightjohn by Gary Paulsen?

 

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teachsuccess eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The chapter begins with Sarny introducing herself to us. She tells us that her story is really about Nightjohn and how he came to live on the plantation.

Sarny relates that Clel Waller is an abusive master and that the slaves call him names behind his back. For her part, Sarny largely keeps to herself; she prefers to observe her surroundings quietly.

As a young girl, she remembers Delie (her Mammy) telling her about her birth mother. Sarny was four when her birth mother was sold, but she doesn't remember much about her mother. What she does know is that all slave babies are given over to a wet nurse, and after they are weaned, they are given to Delie to raise. No birth mother ever gets to raise her own child.

To help keep track of each child's age, Delie carves notches onto individual sticks. Until a girl slave is ready for breeding, she performs odd chores about the plantation and helps Mammy with the little children. Delie tells us that one of her favorite places to work is in the flower beds. There, she can listen to the women of the house talk (the flower beds are directly under a window), and she can learn about everything that occurs on the plantation.

At the end of the day, she likes to lie down on her pallet next to Mammy and the babies. During this quiet time, she enjoys thinking back on everything she has learned. The only thing that makes her sad about this time is that she has little memory of her birth mother and so can't think about her as much as she would like. The chapter ends with Sarny relating that she first heard about Nightjohn while she was working in the flower beds.