Last Updated on October 7, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 673
Lavinia is the protagonist and one of the narrators of The Kitchen House. As a toddler, she is indentured to James Pyke when her parents die indebted to him. She is of Irish descent and initially has no memory of her family. She considers the African American servants of the Pyke estate her “real” family, given that she grows up under their care. After having been given a proper education by the Madden family in Philadelphia, Lavinia returns to the Pyke estate as Marshall Pyke’s bride. It is through her eyes that we see Marshall’s violent abuse of her and her family. Lavinia is a sensitive, agreeable woman—eventually, however, she learns to fight back.
Belle is one of the narrators of The Kitchen House. She is an African American servant of the Pyke estate and works at the kitchen house. Unbeknownst to the rest of the Pyke family, however, she is actually the illegitimate child of James Pyke. Unlike the rest of the house servants, she was taught how to read and write when she was young. Belle is a stubborn woman, and she is strongly opposed to her father’s wish to free her and send her to Philadelphia. She thinks of the Pyke estate and of the kitchen house as her home. It is through Belle’s eyes that we are given a deeper look into the sorrows and troubles of the Pyke servants.
James Pyke, or “the captain,” as he is often referred to in the book, is the head of the Pyke tobacco plantation. He was forty years old when he married Martha Madden, who was much younger than him at the time. As he is a merchant and trader, James Pyke is often away from his estate for months at a time. He is a fair, stern man, yet he remains indifferent to his servants’ condition. His decision to keep secret his parentage to Belle, for example, causes her great difficulties throughout her life.
Martha Pyke—or Miss Martha, as she is often referred to—comes from a well-off family in Philadelphia, the Maddens. As we learn through Lavinia’s eyes, Martha often experiences extreme loneliness in the Pyke estate, since the captain is always away. She has three children with the captain: Marshall, Sally, and Campell. Sally dies at a young age due to Marshall’s careless temper. Campbell, too, passes away from yellow fever soon thereafter. Martha begins to abuse opium as a means to cope with these losses. The loss of her children and the belief that Belle is her...
(The entire section contains 673 words.)
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