Shades of Gray

by Carolyn Reeder

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Student Question

Who are the maid and butler in Shades of Gray?

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Shades of Gray by Carolyn Reeder tells the story of twelve-year-old William Page, a boy who is brought to live with his Uncle Jed and Aunt Ella at their Virginia-based farm after the deaths of his own family. The book is set shortly after the Civil War and details William's internal battle to accept his new life living with Jed, a man who consciously abstained from fighting the Yankees out of the belief that killing his fellow countrymen to solve conflict was wrong.

In the first chapter of the book, Will is brought to his new home by Doc Martin. To demonstrate his willingness to help out his aunt, Will offers to split some kindling. Will's cousin Meg asks, "Didn't you have slaves to do that sort of work?" Will explains to Meg that his family had previously owned three slaves: Callie, the cook; Lizzy, who "looked after the house"; and Fred, who "did the outside work." He describes how Fred followed Will's father when he joined the cavalry and how Lizzy stayed to tend to Will's sisters while they were sick.

So, in answer to your question, the "maid" of the household was named Lizzy and the "butler" of the household was named Fred. Those terms—"maid" and "butler"—are not explicitly used in the first chapter because it's significant to understand that Lizzy and Fred were not being employed by the Page household; rather, they were owned as slaves.

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