“What On Earth Did They Think They Were Doing?” ─ Slavery and the White Mistresses in Valerie Martin’s Property

Main Article Content

Houda Hamdi

Abstract

Taking as its main corpus Valerie Martin’s neo-slave narrative, Property, this paper portrays a violent relationship based on racial domination between a white mistress, Manon Gaudet, and her black slave woman, Sarah. This work highlights the subversive aspect of Property in unsettling the conventional historical accounts which neglected white women’s active involvement in the institution of slavery in the Antebellum South. Instead of looking at the American white mistresses as delicate upper-class women who are themselves victims of the white male patriarchy, this paper, instead, portrays them as violent perpetrators who engaged in subjugating and dehumanising the black subject.
Despite the overriding narrative voice of the white mistress, I argue that the novel does not stop short at portraying Sarah as a victim of slavery. It becomes a contrapuntal historical narrative which highlights the struggle of this slave woman to free herself from bondage through her transgressive modes to resist both racial and gender paradigms. In so doing, Sarah becomes a foregrounding voice who responds back to her white mistress who remains metaphorically and literally a bonded woman because she refuses to free herself from the slaveholding culture and thought.

Article Details

How to Cite
Hamdi, H. (2019). “What On Earth Did They Think They Were Doing?” ─ Slavery and the White Mistresses in Valerie Martin’s Property. Humanities Bulletin, 2(2), 158-167. Retrieved from https://www.journals.lapub.co.uk/index.php/HB/article/view/1250
Section
Articles