Roots: The Saga of an American Family Chapter 80 Summary

Alex Haley

Chapter 80 Summary

Things have never been more glum on the Waller plantation. Fiddler’s playing no longer sounds the same; his spirit is broken. He now wanders the plantation hardly even nodding to anyone, never telling stories. Further, there is a horrible fever sweeping the county. Most slaves on the plantation come down with the sickness, even Kunta.

Bell notices one evening that Kunta isn’t acting like himself, even complaining when backrubs begin to hurt. The next morning, Kunta is unable to get out of bed. The doctor—and master—William Waller comes down to observe Kunta. Waller admits it’s the dreaded fever causing so many deaths to both blacks and whites; however, because of the number of urgent house calls, he demands that Fiddler be his driver. As Doctor Waller attends to the sick white people with medicine, Bell passes her own herbal remedies to Fiddler for the black people.

Fiddler continues in his downtrodden, lifeless state until he hears Kunta is sick and rushes to Kunta’s side. Kunta’s sickness changes Fiddler. Even though Fiddler is no longer happy, he becomes a more caring and compassionate man.  Similarly, Bell deepens in her love for Kunta as he lays there, delirious one minute and comatose the next. Bell simply squeezes her husband’s hot, dry hand and prays for him to return to her.

There is a lot of praying around the Waller plantation. Aunt Sukey and other older slave women admit it’s their prayers doing the curing instead of the medicines and herbs. During the worst part of Kunta’s sickness, even Missy Anne comes into the cabin and is upset by all the sadness she sees in Kunta’s family and friends. Missy Anne especially notes how sad Kizzy is. Missy Anne asks her uncle for some advice on what Bible verse to read for the occasion and then spends the afternoon reading the peaceful Psalm 23. The slaves are visibly moved by Missy Anne’s recitation.

Kunta finally begins to get better. His first smile in a long time comes when Kizzy leans over and whispers that she religiously has placed a smooth stone into her father’s special gourd every single month. Kunta asks if he’s dreaming when the Fiddler complains about the buggy routes they are taking each day. Everyone knows Kunta is recovering when he smiles at Kizzy for putting pebbles in his gourd at every new moon and fusses at Fiddler for his buggy-driving complaints.