Roots: The Saga of an American Family Chapter 54 Summary

Alex Haley

Chapter 54 Summary

Soon it is Christmastime again, and this year, Kunta decides to at least pay attention to the celebrations. Kunta can’t believe all of the food that Bell is cooking. Then, after the feast, in the middle of the day, all of the slaves gather around the white house’s windows to sing Christmas carols. Then Fiddler is summoned to play the fiddle for all to hear. During all of this, Kunta can’t help wondering why the slaves seem to enjoy all of this so much. How could they be happy if, at best, they are kept as pets that cannot survive on their own? Kunta wonders whether he is now any different than they are.

Kunta is glad about the friendship he has with Fiddler, despite the differences between the two of them. Kunta decides to deepen that relationship by asking Fiddler more questions. After asking about the lesser subject of what taxes are, Kunta asks Fiddler where he is from. Fiddler knows why Kunta is asking this question and gets mad.

Fiddler says that Kunta thinks he’s been through the worst life has to offer, but that’s not necessarily the case. Fiddler hesitates, wondering whether he can trust Kunta. Fiddler finally decides to tell Kunta the entire story. Fiddler’s former master drowned one night, the same night that Fiddler ran away. Because the master didn’t have any children or family to speak of, no one came to find him. Therefore, Fiddler hid with a group of Native Americans for a long time, until he felt it was safe to get to Virginia, where he could play with some of the famous musicians of whom he had heard. Fiddler has to explain “Indians” to Kunta as well. Fiddler explains that Africans and Indians made the same mistake: offering kindness to the white man. “First think you know he kickin’ you out or lockin’ you up!”

Because Kunta doesn’t know what Virginia is, Fiddler explains all about the thirteen colonies in the 1700s that were originally settled by England. When Fiddler describes the northern colonies, he also explains that some white people up there don’t believe in slavery. Fiddler explains that he is kind of “half-free” and stays on a plantation only so random slave catchers don’t swoop in and grab him.

Suddenly, Fiddler turns on Kunta and yells at him for wanting slaves to be exactly like him. “How you ‘spec we gon’ know ‘bout Africa? We ain’t never been dere, an’ ain’t goin’ neither!” Kunta leaves without another word, absolutely shocked—not at what Fiddler says but at the fact that Fiddler says it. Fiddler has no reason to hide anything from Kunta now. Fiddler certainly trusts Kunta, for Fiddler is allowing the two friends to truly get to know one another.