Roots: The Saga of an American Family Chapter 53 Summary

Alex Haley

Chapter 53 Summary

It isn’t long before summer is over and the harvesting starts. Even Bell is called out from the house to work in the fields. Kunta has a hard time keeping up with his own work of gardening and tending to all of the plantation’s animals as well. 

After the harvesting is done, the whole plantation gathers for a dance. Fiddler plays and all of the slaves dance in imitation of the farmwork they do every day. It reminds Kunta very much of the harvest dancing the Mandinka would do at the harvest festival, so much so that Kunta can’t help but tap his foot in time with the music. Unfortunately, after the harvest dance, Fiddler gets drunk and pays Kunta a visit in his cabin. Kunta is disgusted by Fiddler’s alcohol consumption, especially because it is something that Allah forbids. Still, Kunta listens all night to Fiddler’s rant about all of the famous musicians from Virginia with whom he has played.

With the harvest done, the slaves make soap and repair cabins and make new buckets and dye cotton. Soon it is snowing again, and the slaves begin to get excited about Christmas. Because Kunta knows this holiday has something to do with “their Allah,” he chooses not to participate. Therefore, he simply waits for spring, when planting begins again.

Kunta is amazed at this land, where all of the people have enough to eat during any season of the year. He remembers having to eat soup made out of little more than grubworms at this time of year in Africa. Kunta compares the young slaves on the plantation to the young children back in Africa. Kunta smiles as the young children take turns sitting on the head of a sheep while it is being sheared. The wool is then cleaned and carded before it is returned to be spun into the cloth that will clothe Kunta this winter.

When all of the slaves are allowed to go away to a church meeting one day, Kunta wonders why he doesn’t feel the urge to escape. Kunta thinks it is because he prefers the certainty of the work on the plantation to the uncertainty of freedom. Kunta knows that he will never see Africa again, but he still has hope. Most specifically, Kunta has hope that one day he will have a family of his own.