Study Guide

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party Part 1, Chapter 17

By M.T. Anderson

Part 1, Chapter 17

  • Octavian's tutors are all about taking him outdoors and teaching him mathematical principles through everyday life.
  • We're talking math problems based on how a large a ship appears—that kind of stuff.
  • They talk about other subjects too, like how the human eye sees color or what kind of trade occurs between countries.
  • On these walks, they can't avoid the politics of the city because the city is super-tense.
  • Why?
  • Boston's itching to fight the motherland (England) over taxation. (You know the motto: "No taxation without representation.")
  • Octavian doesn't understand all the tension and anger in the city, why people's stores are getting looted and vandalized, or why people are crying "Liberty and Property!".
  • More importantly, he really doesn't understand that all this tension threatens his life at the College too.
  • There, life is easy and grand; they get to wear cool threads and eat good food.
  • Even though they have guests who come by bearing bad news (like Customs officials preventing the smuggling of goods—which the Gitney family is involved in) and who come cursing out the English crown, Octavian doesn't feel the effect.
  • But wait—Octavian's not totally a dolt in these discussions.
  • He does get that whatever is going on does have one serious effect on him, his mother, and the other slaves—and that maybe, just maybe, all this unrest might be God's way of leading them to a future of freedom, self-education, and self-rule.

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