Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Remember When . . . More Cultures Clashed?

One of the most intriguing parts of my current work-in-progress is without a doubt the slave culture in that part of Georgia at the time. I've already blogged on my experience discovering the rich Gullah-Geechee a few weeks ago here:

But I've discovered whole new facets since then. =)

See, one thing I've decided to do is show this rich African-American (and I use that term not in the modern sense but rather as a way of showing how the two cultures combined into something new, the Gullah-Geechee culture) by contrasts within the black characters. It's turning out to be a lot of fun.

First I have Chloe, a young slave who's a mulatto and the daughter of the master--which the mistress knows but the legitimate children don't. Chloe spent the first ten or so years of her life on a rice plantation with her mother and her mother's family.

Now, rice plantations were harsh places, where life expectancy was 5 years in the fields and the infant mortality rate among the slaves was in the nineties. This certainly played a part in the spiritual lives of the slaves and what we today would call their superstitions. In a world where death lurked right around the corner, the underworld was never far away, right?

So Chloe was raised believing spirits came up out the waterways and ghosts haunted the world. Her aunt is a conjurer. It's what she knew. But when she was moved to the city, Christianity became more real to her, and in a way that forced her to separate out some of the "superstitious" beliefs--though it was rare for them all to be abandoned. Still, compared to the other slaves she's around, she'd got a way of thinking more like what we know . . . but with a very strong connection to and respect for that other world that whites couldn't understand.

But then we have Luther, who is a free black born and raised in England. And this is where the fun comes in. =) In England, he was raised with something close to equality, given the chance to be educated and is in fact a minister. He's lived all his life in a fine (if modest) house, with fine (if modest) clothes. But he ends up in Cuba to try to purchase his wife's aging grandmother for her and gets trapped in a whole different world. One where everyone's sneering at him, black and white alike. Blacks because they see him as someone who has forgotten his roots, and whites because he "puts on airs."

A fun contrast to be sure. Chloe and Luther are my two secondary POV characters, one with her Geechee speech pattern, the other with his British accent, and I'm having a blast incorporating them into the story! Can't wait to see how they force my plot to shift and change to adapt to them . . . and how I manage to keep them from taking over, LOL. Good thing Delia and Phin are great characters in their own right!


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