Study Guide

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party Part 4, Chapter 9

By M.T. Anderson

Part 4, Chapter 9

  • For four days, Octavian refuses to eat or drink, but on the fifth day, he can't help himself from eating some oatmeal.
  • He reasons that starving to death is kind of a cowardly act since he wouldn't be meeting his challenges head-on.
  • He thinks instead about how he got to where he is right now.
  • There's no way around it: the Sons of Liberty sold him out to the College out of gratitude for the College's donations to the cause.
  • Octavian ponders all this fighting for liberty and this is what he concludes: Blacks and whites worked, ate, and lived together for liberty, but all this togetherness was more out of habit than anything else.
  • In fact, everyone's pretty much in the same situation—all going about the dirty business of war.
  • Sometimes his friend Goring would visit him; those were good times, with Goring going on about how equality and liberty would come for them all.
  • But was Goring right?
  • Sure everyone worked together for the war, but the slaves risked their lives for the war without any guarantee that they would be free afterward—in fact, many of them were fighting because their masters ordered them to do so.
  • What Goring didn't know was that, when whites weren't around, the slaves talked about rumors, like: how some colonies would only fight the Brits if slavery could continue after the war; how slave-masters were part of the Continental Congress in Philadelphia; how those same slave-masters, who had slaves in their fields, would complain about how the Brits enslaved the colonials; how slave-masters slept with their slaves and had kids, who might be killed by those same men; and how there might be a slave rebellion (which the masters were scared of).
  • Octavian can't get the images of slaves being tortured, raped, and killed in houses all over the colonies out of his head, and he can't stop imagining all the fear and grief they must be experiencing.
  • Goring's a good guy—a great guy, even—but he doesn't know about any of these things or how N****es are treated differently than whites in the camps.
  • Octavian recalls an old man he saw on the road, after the fight at Bunker Hill.
  • The old man had an actual hole in his chest (you could see his skeleton), but he still managed to lift his hat at some white men passing by; plus he gave them directions to a road.
  • Octavian helped the old man, named Hosiah Lister, walk to a doctor's tent.
  • The doctor wasn't hopeful (Lister lost too much blood), but he patched him up anyway.
  • Lister told Octavian about his childhood, which was all about catching flying insects with a jar full of chemicals; then Lister died.
  • The doctor later came by and wrote in his account book: "Hosiah Lister, now dead, rec'd his freedom."

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