Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Remember When . . . Slavery Was a Six-Year Committment?

Jumping back to the Law of Moses today, and to one of the subjects of the utmost relevance to A Stray Drop of Blood. Slavery. Or, perhaps more accurately, bonds.

According to Moses' account in Deuteronomy, Jews cannot actually enslave their own people. Now, he admits that the poor will always be among them, and that there will therefore always be servants. But if said poor neighbor comes to the Rich Dude and offers himself up as a bondservant, it isn't permanent. It's a six-year contract, after which Rich Dude must not only release him, he must release him with a nice severance package so Poor Dude can make a name for himself.

Now, if Poor Dude loves Rich Dude and wants to serve him forever, he can opt to bind himself to the family for life. At which point they'll pierce his ear as a symbol of his commitment.

Obviously, nothing is so simple in Stray Drop, LOL. I complicate matters by making my main character a slave to a Roman. He observes Hebrew law whenever possible, but his family and colleagues obviously don't. So while in the Visibullis house the slaves are treated as equals, in the eyes of Rome, they're still just slaves.

Now, my setup is that Abigail's mother's second husband sells her after her mother's death. I imagine this sort of thing happened, but the Law really, really frowned on Hebrews selling each other to Gentiles. Even more unthinkable is something I have later in the book, that a desperate mother sells her six-year-old boy. This is unlikely because without a son, a woman has nothing in that day. But my setup is that the woman already has nothing, and the son is to young to provide for her, so she pretty much gives up. (Not to mention she's just a you-know-what. Not that we see her in this book, but I've developed her dubious character in the planned-out-but-unwritten sequel.)

During the main part of the story, Abigail is in her sixth year of service. I don't talk about this outright, but an undercurrent in the plot is that Abigail wants to serve her mistress forever. Said mistress is determined to give her a brighter future and arrange her marriage. Cause for all sorts of troubles when the arrogant son who thinks like a Roman arrives back on the scene. =)

Also cause for all sorts of imagination when Roman law and Hebrew law clash on the issue. I have no idea what would actually have happened in the situation, but I guessed as best I could, LOL.


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