Amos Fortune, Free Man

by Elizabeth Yates

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Why was the move to Jaffrey difficult for Amos and Violet in Amos Fortune: Free Man?

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The move to Jaffrey is not easy for Amos and Violet, who must travel on foot and by cart. On their way they meet the constable who warns them away from the city. When they arrive in Jaffrey they are greeted by Parson Ainsworth and taken into his home until Amos can find a place to live or secure work. Jaffrey is "a small farming settlement with about fifty families" (Chapter 7 - "The Meeting of Amos Fortune"). Most of the settlers are "from Massachusetts or Rhode Island". Some have come from Scotland, but there are also some New Englanders coming in from areas that had been devastated by the French.

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Compared to the town of Woburn from which Amos and Violet are traveling, Jaffrey is still largely unsettled.  Even though she has been a slave, Violet has become accustomed to "the comfort of a big house and the companionship of many servants and slaves".  She is a little fearful of...

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venturing out into the "wilderness", which is how she sees Jaffrey. 

Amos also is aware that in moving to Jaffrey, he is taking a "big step", and not one without risk.  He is counting on being able to establish a tannery in the small settlement, being able to make a living and eventually having enough to buy a patch of land of his own.  He has prepared well, however, and is willing to leave behind "the familiar, the known, the safe and secure", in order to truly experience his freedom, "going far...from the memory of toil as another's chattel, from indignity and privation and the long slow years of servitude".

Once Amos and Violet have made their decision to move, they have to wait a year for Amos to "finish the hides in his care" so that they would have enough money saved to tide them over until he can establish his business in Jaffrey.  When the time comes, Amos and Violet pack up all their transportable tools and as many household goods that they can fit into a small cart pulled by their one faithful horse, Cyclops.  Cyclops is old, and there is "a long way to go and the load (is) heavy".  For most of the journey they travel at a walk, and must get out and walk beside the cart when there are hills.

It takes Amos and Violet five days to get to Jaffrey.  The constable meets them at the outskirts of the city and advises them that they'd "best be gone from this town".  Although he is not particularly hostile, neither is he welcoming; it is his "duty" to warn the newcomers off to "(free) the town of any liability for their support should they ever become impoverished".  Amos manages to convince the constable that they will not be a burden, however, and the lawman, reassured, refers them to Parson Ainsworth, who might be able to help them get settled (Chapter 6 - "The Arrival at Jaffrey").

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