The Sweetness of Water

by Nathan Harris

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What is the historical context of The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris?

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The historical context of The Sweetness of Water by Nathan Harris is the end of the American Civil War. The war pitted the anti-slavery Union against the pro-slavery Confederacy and officially concluded in the spring of 1865.

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The historical context of Nathan Harris’s novel The Sweetness of Water connects to the American Civil War. From 1861 to 1865, the United States experienced a civil war that set Americans who wished to abolish the institution of Black slavery against Americans who wanted to preserve it. The fight for chattel slavery was championed by Southern states, or the Confederacy. The fight to outlaw slavery was taken up by Northern states, or the Union.

To establish its independence from the anti-slavery states, the South created a separate government. In chapter 3, Mr. Morton tells the slaves about a “generous offer” at the “behest of President Davis.” Mr. Morton is referring to Confederate President Jefferson Davis. In the next chapter, George finds out that President Lincoln has declared Old Ox an asset for the North; he is referring to the US President Abraham Lincoln.

In Harris’s story, the American Civil War is coming to a close. The war did not work out well for the South. The South’s defeat is crucial to Harris’s book and is highlighted throughout the narrative. The opening scene, where George befriends two former slaves, Prentiss and Landry, indicates that the South’s racial hierarchy is crumbling. Later on, Robert E. Lee, the commander of the Confederate Army, decides to officially surrender to the Union around the time of Natasha and August’s wedding.

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