Frado’s basic impulses to laugh and to enjoy life’s simple pleasures are not easily repressed by the cruel servitude she enters when her white mother, Mag, runs off and leaves her with the Bellmonts, a white family dominated by a cruel and bigoted matriarch.
Although life with the Bellmonts is exceedingly grim for Frado, the bright light of her humanity never completely dies. Indeed, Wilson writes, during the first three years of Frado’s indenture, when she attends school, her constant “jollity” cannot “be quenched by whipping or scolding.” Even after her formal education ends and life becomes creased by constant insults, the “spark of playfulness” manifests itself in the occasional “funny thing” she says to her sympathizers, in her performance of daring stunts, and in her amusements with animals.
Mrs. Bellmont, a fierce social climber, takes out her frustrations on Frado. Consequently, no matter what occurs to “ruffle” Mrs. Bellmont, “a few blows on Nig seemed to relieve her of a portion of ill-will.”
Mrs. Bellmont is enthusiastically assisted in her efforts to break Frado’s spirit by her equally willful and malcontent daughter, Mary, who advances in the practice of cruelty as she matures.
Constantly besieged by the two cruel Bellmont “ladies,” Frado receives crumbs of kindness from three key family members: Mr. Bellmont, the father of the family, and Jack and James, his two sons. (Jane, a crippled...
(The entire section is 605 words.)