Clotel Sold Down The River Summary

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power structure of American democratic ideologies juxtaposing liberty with slavery.
Clotel is seemingly happy with the events of her life. She is living in a secluded cottage with Horatio and their daughter Mary, but like Jefferson, he wants a life in politics, which blacks are excluded from. Without a legal obligation in the form of a marriage contract, Clotel’s inherited white blood proves meaningless when Horatio takes Gertrude a legitimate, pure white wife to further his political career. Like Currer, she is “sold down the river” and her connection to the President, societal advantages, virtue, nor beauty can negate the invisible black blood that runs in her veins. Once again she is separated from her biological ties. First, from her
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Similarly to Gertrude, Mrs. French “looks upon her husband as unfaithful, and regards [Clotel] as a rival”(n.p). Clotel’s beauty is now a curse and with her long, wavy, black hair serving as a symbol of “exotic” beauty, her mistress orders her to cut it off. Still “handsome,” with the help of a male slave at her new master’s plantation, she decides to pass as a southern gentleman to rescue her daughter, Mary, that she left behind as a servant in her own father’s home. Her ability to pass as an Italian gentleman serves a device to show how the mulatto was able to disguise him or herself and navigate freely through American society, thus shattering the basis of what race stands. When the Nat Turner revolts takes place, suspicious people are searched and Clotel is detected, not because of skin color, but because her suitcase only contains women’s clothing. Clotel is arrested and by orders of her master is sent to a slave prison to await return to New Orleans. Ironically, the jail is in close proximity of the “President’s house and the capitol of the Union”(n.p). Brown’s further reveals the contradiction of slavery in a nation where “all men are created by nature equal” and “endowed by the Creator with certain rights, which are irrefutable. Because Clotel could no longer bear living without her daughter in captivity, she escapes from prison and commits suicide by jumping into the Potomac River, as this is her only option. In his book, The Afro-American Novel and Its Tradition, Bernard W. Bell asserts, “Clotel is not carefully delineated as an individual, but as the archetype of the beautiful heroine whose mixed blood, noble spirit and poetic nature make her a tragic figure” thus, serving Brown’s abolitionist agenda (40). Like Bell, Werner Sollors in neither black nor white yet both: Thematic Explorations of Interracial Literature, also views Clotel as
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