By William Noy Wilkins Mrs, Anon, Gordon Wilkins Kerr, Lise Winer, Bridget Brereton, Rhonda Cobham, Mary Rimmer, Karen Sanchez-Eppler
A dramatic nineteenth-century story, initially released within the newspapers of the day, Adolphus lines the adventures of a mulatto son of a black slave lady raped via a white guy.
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Additional resources for Adolphus, a Tale (Anonymous) & the Slave Son (The Caribbean Heritage Series)
But to apply that convention to the racially charged context of nineteenth-century Trinidad is necessarily to change it, and to call the “naturalness” of gentle birth into question. The authors go beyond the obvious injustice of racism to query its fundamental assumption that colour defines nature. Any oppressed person who can successfully appropriate the cultural heritage of the oppressors can use it to challenge their claims to “natural” dominance. One element of the past can thus be used to neutralize the other – or, to put it another way, the cultural past allows characters to exchange an oppressive “parent” for an empowering one.
The narrator, however, makes her paternity plain, noting with pointed irony that her owner, Mr Perrin, has fathered “a great many children of caste” and sells them once they have “been grown”, making “a great deal of money by raising human crops” (p. 131). Belfond is in much the same position; he does know who his father is, and his marked resemblance to him, as well as to the legitimate son whose personal attendant he is, makes his parentage plain, but at the same time invisible, to everyone. Nor are things much easier on the maternal side: Madelaine, Laurine’s mother, is indifferent to her, and looks upon her “as an alien with whom she [has] nothing to do” (p.
In adopting these ways of loving, Laurine reverses the relation of mother and daughter, and links the generalized “we” of author and reader with the moral and affective position of the novel’s heroine: It is so ordained that the object we help becomes dear to us, and the more trouble we take, so also the greater love do we bestow. Laurine felt this; her automaton mother became dear to her exactly in proportion to her helplessness; she longed to be with her or to have a home for her. (p. 135) In learning to love from her white owners, the freed Laurine becomes available for the reader’s love and sympathetic identification, and even enables us to care about her otherwise unsympathetic “automaton mother”.