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The Known World
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message 1: by Barry (new) - added it

Barry Huff | 9 comments Mod
The title of the book "The Known World" seems similar to the the phrase "Common Sense" -- a phrase that assumes EVERYONE interprets life the same, or has the same sensibilities at some base level.

As you read, or upon reflection of the first chapter (titled "Liaison. The Warmth of Family. Stormy Weather."):

1. What "common-sense" notions of antebellum/pre-Civil War South are UPHELD by the book?
2. What "common-sense" notions of antebellum/pre-Civil War South CHALLENGED by the book?

Please post about the first chapter only!


message 2: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Ann | 7 comments I found the part about the census interesting. Perhaps many would have known the practice of claiming wives and children as slaves, but I hadn't thought about it. The act of buying it ones freedom is another their notion not talked about a lot as well.
The character of Alice running through the woods and not being right in the head is a common portrayal of the times.


message 3: by Barry (new) - added it

Barry Huff | 9 comments Mod
Elizabeth wrote: "The character of Alice running through the woods and not being right in the head is a common portrayal of the times."

Elizabeth this is interesting: Alice, the brain-damaged slave, as a "slave-of-the-times" metaphor. Would you consider posting a bit more about this? I want to chew on this a bit more.


message 4: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Ann | 7 comments Alice is the embodiment of the notion that colored people needed slavery because without that structure they could not function. Plus all we know at this time is that she lies about her life, wonders at night, and does unacceptable sometimes sexual acts.


message 5: by Laura (new)

Laura Aten | 2 comments I think one of the ideas that I picked up on is that everyone's "known" is rarely challenged. Moses's known world is the land, the lane, the Townsend property- but beyond that he is "world lost." White men's doctors were not expected to know about black people's ailments. Henry was supposed to know instinctively (according to his parents) that it was wrong to own a human being. Alice, in an interesting way, capitalizes on the fact that so few people challenge what is "known." Of course, the author is also challenging me in much the same way. I kept finding myself searching for the footnotes as I read, only to discover that the many references Jones includes are fictional. Maybe what we are so sure we "know" can enslave us, hinder us, as demonstrated in the Cosby piece as well as the novel.


message 6: by Barry (new) - added it

Barry Huff | 9 comments Mod
Laura wrote: "I think one of the ideas that I picked up on is that everyone's "known" is rarely challenged.

While it's true that "knowns" are rarely challenged, the only time they are challenged, it's by the one person so rich, he's almost bigger than the times -- William Robbins.

There was no one else in the county who could have gotten away with putting a Negro and her two children in a house on the same block with with white people

It seems while everyone else is bound to social norms, Robbins' wealth and status gives him a vantage point no other character (at least so far) can summit.

Socio-economics supersedes racial constucts...at least in this part of the book.


message 7: by Elizabeth (new)

Elizabeth Ann | 7 comments Yet in the same part they comment on lower socio economic whites as "only thing keeping him from being a slave is the color of his skin"


message 8: by Barry (last edited Jul 18, 2016 10:14PM) (new) - added it

Barry Huff | 9 comments Mod
Elizabeth wrote: "Alice is the embodiment of the notion that colored people needed slavery because without that structure they could not function."

Possibly.

I like what you wrote in your previous post ("The character of Alice running through the woods and not being right in the head is a common portrayal of the times.") because it made me think of Alice not just a representation of people of color, but rather the ENTIRE South. The South using its limited faculties to remain free in the "wilderness" of its oppressor. Again, I need to read on and chew on this topic.

I'm also intrigued by Alice's ability to wriggle free of social customs through overt use of sexuality and mental illness -- two things that still often shirk containment by heavy-handed policing.


message 9: by Barry (new) - added it

Barry Huff | 9 comments Mod
Elizabeth wrote: "Yet in the same part they comment on lower socio economic whites as "only thing keeping him from being a slave is the color of his skin""

I believe that what makes this book exceptional: it's focus on socio-economics. It's refreshing.


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