F20 Black Atlantic: Resources, Pedagogy, and Scholarship on the 18th Century Black Atlantic

Three Fingered Jack Discussion Starters

For this week's reading, I am posing two questions for discussion.
  1. Earle goes to great lengths to distance himself from the story of Jack. He is writing as George Stanford chronicling these events. At the beginning, Stanford is writing with Amri's voice as if she is telling him the story. Then, we cannot forget the mock-epistolary format of the text. We as the reader are encouraged to take the place of a fifth and sometimes sixth party, discovering Jack's story, distanced from these events by time and relationship. What effect does this layered narration have on our reading of the text? How do we perceive Amri's version of the story through two layers of white men? Where have we seen similar layered narration? How does Earle's use of this tactic in this mock-epistolary format differ from other uses of this type of narration?
  2. There are multiple times in the text when enslaved characters mention receiving an unjust reward or no reward at all for their labor. For example, Amri exclaims 

I procured him a cooling drink;I added to his pallet, softened it for his weak frame, and cheered him in the hour of affliction. What was my reward? What was my recompense? Chains! Chains! my son, and lifeclosing slavery. (Earle 76).

A few other instances are on pages 101, 108, and 110. Consider this observation along with the following exchange from the first letter:

—"He is a slave."
—"Man cannot be a slave to man."
—"He is my property."
—"How did you acquire that property?"
—"By paing for it."
—"Paying! Paying whom?"
(Earle 8)

As well as this passage from Amri:

Thus, by severe treatment, they become enemies to themselves, and sacrifice thousands of poor souls, who, were they used kindly, would labor harder for their employers, and even with cheerfulness. (Earle 94)

What do you make of Earle's focus on reward for labor and his assumption (through Amri) that the African people would work cheerfully for the Europeans if compensated? 

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