Study Guide

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party Part 2, Chapter 9

By M.T. Anderson

Part 2, Chapter 9

  • Octavian can't take it anymore, so he starts to play his violin secretly in the attic.
  • Only it's not that much of a secret, since everyone knows he's up there playing.
  • Mr. Sharpe doesn't generally care as long as it's out of his earshot (he's not that into music either—thinks it's all too cultured and against nature… big surprise).
  • But one day, Mr. Sharpe starts visiting the attic and listening in on Octavian's music sessions—he even asks Octavian to play some popular songs of the day—and eventually, he brings a violin master in to hear Octavian play.
  • Their plan? To get Octavian to play at Faneuil Hall, in front of a big, paying audience.
  • So they organize a performance at Faneuil Hall: Octavian will play "The Devil's Trill" dressed as the devil.
  • What's with the whole devil thing?
  • Mr. Sharpe—the guy, mind you, who thinks narratives are totally impractical—has told the audience that Octavian got his talent from the Devil one night.
  • He thinks this will make Octavian's performance more interesting to the audience.
  • Octavian is really not happy. First of all, the whole story is clearly a lie; and second, he's dressed in the most ridiculous (and offensive) get-up ever.
  • Mr. Sharpe tells Octavian to play the piece full of lightness and joy.
  • Yeah, right.
  • Octavian—who, before the whole performance, was feeling sick and nervous—gets up on that stage and plays the hell out of (or more like, into) the piece.
  • He makes it freaky, gothic, scary—in other words, the exact opposite of light and gay.
  • He doesn't know how he gets as many compliments as he does after the piece, but he does; some people even come up to him and tell him he's managed to change their minds about slavery.
  • But Mr. Sharpe is not happy.
  • He whips Octavian when they get home that night; then he makes Octavian do his hair.

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