The Slave Dancer

by Paula Fox

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What was Jessie's relationship with Purvis in The Slave Dancer?

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Interesting question! In the book The Slave Dancer by Paula Fox, Purvis and Jessie had an unusual relationship.

Foremost, Jessie appeared to trust Purvis more than some of the other sailors, especially Ben Stout. Throughout the story, Purvis accomplished admirable tasks. For example, he took the blame for stealing from the captain’s personal food supply, despite his innocence. He also cared for Jessie by not letting Jessie’s homesickness overwhelm him. As the text revealed:

“Purvis with his horrible coarse jokes, his bawling and cursing, Purvis whom I trusted."

However, there were also negative aspects of Purvis and Jessie’s relationship. Foremost, Purvis was one of the sailors who kidnapped Jessie. Furthermore, Purvis appeared angry whenever Jessie cared for any of the slaves, which caused tension in their relationship. As the text showed, Jessie’s perspective of Purvis was:

“gratitude mixed with disappointment. I thought of Purvis.”

Thus, in the story, Purvis and Jessie had a more complex relationship. Although Jessie trusted Purvis and appreciated his friendship, Jessie was still disheartened by his actions and beliefs about slavery.

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