Form and Content
Jubilee is based on the life of Margaret Walker’s maternal great-grandmother, Margaret Duggans Ware Brown, called “Vyry” in the novel, as her story was related to the author by her grandmother, Elvira Ware Dozier, or “Minna.” As Walker explains in her book How I Wrote “Jubilee” (1972), however, the novel is not based solely on the oral tradition. It is also the product of ten years of research into historical documents. Therefore, although Jubilee is classified as a historical novel, rather than as a biography, it is very close to the truth.
The novel is divided into three sections, each representing a distinct period in Vyry’s life. “Sis Hetta’s Child—The Ante-Bellum Years” describes her childhood as a slave on the Dutton plantation near Dawson, Georgia. After her mother’s death, Vyry is reared by an elderly slave. At seven, she is taken to the Big House to be the maid of Lillian Dutton, who is actually her half sister, since both are daughters of the white plantation owner, John Morris Dutton, or “Marse John.” His wife, Salina Dutton, or “Big Missy,” hates and abuses Vyry, and, although Marse John seems kind, he never forgets that Vyry is his property. He will not permit her to marry Randall Ware, the father of her unborn child. When Vyry tries to run away, she is caught and whipped.
The middle section is entitled “‘Mine eyes have seen the Glory’—The Civil War Years.”...
(The entire section is 532 words.)