Kathleen Grissom's The Kitchen House

Powerful Essays
While more than 10.7 million people were enslaved throughout American history, the story of just one plantation can paint the picture of what life was like for most slaves (Gates Jr.). The Kitchen House is a book about Lavinia, an orphan who grows up as an indentured servant to the Pykes. When she is about 12 years old, she travels to Williamsburg with Mrs. Pyke and Mrs. Pyke’s sister, Miss Sarah. After Lavinia marries and divorces Mr. Boran, a widower, she marries Marshall Pyke, the son of the captain. Together, they move back to Tall Oaks, the plantation owned by the Pykes. She soon realizes that Marshall is an abusive alcoholic and she falls into a deep depression. When Lavinia sees what her depression is doing to her family, she snaps out…show more content…
Why did Lavinia begin to take laudanum when she knew what it had done to Mrs. Pyke? One possible reason is that she wanted to relieve her depression. She could no longer handle the relationship she had with Marshall. Lavinia also may have felt bad for the way that she treated her daughter, Elly. When Lavinia saw the strong connection Elly and Fanny had formed, she may have felt like Elly no longer needed her mother because someone else could raise her. Another potential reason that Lavinia became addicted to laudanum is because she saw that way it numbed Mrs. Pyke to her surroundings. It is likely that Lavinia wanted to rid herself of the guilt she felt for abandoning her old friends. She was so close to all of the slaves working in the kitchen house, but when she remarried and became the woman of the house, all of her friends had to treat her differently. If Lavinia stayed in her bed all day, she would not have to deal with her memories of the good days when everyone treated each other equally. Laudanum would also help her forget about her dour husband who did not respect her. Marshall sexually harassed multiple slaves, and Lavinia did not want to have to deal with those situations. My second question pertains to Lucy, Ben’s wife. Why is Lucy okay with Ben having an affair with Belle? A possible answer to this question is that Lucy believes that their relationship is inevitable, but she knows how lucky…show more content…
She is compassionate for multiple reasons. Miss Martha took Lavinia under her wing and raised her in the big house, where Miss Martha lived. Lavinia was taught to read, which was considered a luxury for most indentured servants and slaves. Additionally, Miss Martha taught Lavinia how to be an urbane guest and hostess. She learned the proper ways of fancy white folks. Miss Martha’s compassionate ways were also shown in the way she stood up for the slaves while her husband was away. On numerous occasions, she was able to override Rankin’s harsh rule over the slaves. Miss Martha also treated the slaves, who were personal attendants, with great respect. Some wives of this time period could be quite rude to their help, but Miss Martha was different. She was civil with them. Another characteristic of Miss Martha is confusion. She often mixed up many important people in her life. One example of this is shown when she refers to Lavinia as Isabelle, her dead sister. Miss Martha also believes that Jamie, Belle’s son, is her own son. She raises him like he is her own child and allows him to sleep in the big house. Her mental confusion is also shown in the book because she is forced to spend multiple years in a hospital. Miss Martha is treated countless times to try to address her issues with mental health. None of these attempts worked, and they most likely made her spiral downward even more. She did
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