Study Guide

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party Part 2, Chapter 33

By M.T. Anderson

Part 2, Chapter 33

  • Octavian begins this chapter with heavy cross-outs, though we can read: "raised hand"; "by the cupboard"; "and never again."
  • The rest of the chapter is an excerpt of an article written by Mr. Gitney and Mr. Sharpe, titled "Observations Upon the Progression of the Smallpox in Homo Afri."
  • The article details the experiment of the pox party: the number of whites and blacks (with whites as the control group) and an explanation of the three people who died from the smallpox.
  • It really goes into detail about all the ways Mr. Gitney tried to "cure" Cassiopeia, cures that included giving her all sorts of doses of chemicals (one even made her lose her hair and teeth) and taking her from extreme heat into extreme cold.
  • (Cassiopeia didn't get it easy at the end, that's for sure.)
  • The article goes on, though, to describe an incident that interrupts the experiment, which goes like this: Octavian bursts into the laboratory to see Cassiopeia, since he hasn't seen her in three days. He turns catatonic when he sees her though because she's clearly dead and in the middle of being dissected. Mr. Sharpe comments that Octavian's stupor shows he's clearly returned to his natural, dumb, savage state, but Octavian hears this and goes ballistic on Mr. Sharpe, screaming and trying to attack the man. Then Mr. Sharpe steps back and says that, clearly, Octavian's actions show how truly savage he is.
  • If you feel like all this is a little unfair to Octavian, you're not alone.
  • Octavian stops everything and notes aloud that it doesn't matter what he does—stay silent, get angry—because whatever he does will be seen as "savage," as some sign of his naturally, dumb, African self (according to the men in the room).
  • So he turns around and leaves.
  • Mr. Gitney sends Dr. Trefusis (who didn't want to take part in the dissection) after Octavian, to comfort him.
  • Only Dr. Trefusis falls asleep at some point in the night, so Octavian escapes.
  • The article returns to the experiment and notes that Mr. Sharpe took over for Mr. Gitney at this point because Mr. Gitney had to go deal with the missing Octavian.

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