Study Guide

The Astonishing Life of Octavian Nothing: Traitor to the Nation, Volume I: The Pox Party Life, Consciousness, and Existence

By M.T. Anderson

Life, Consciousness, and Existence

Be prepared for anything under the philosophical sun if you've decided to read Octavian Nothing. The novel is non-stop with its references to major western philosophies, and it also gets super-deep into what those philosophies mean from the perspective of the enslaved. And from the perspective of a slave like Octavian, the meaning of life is all about the dualities of pre-revolutionary America: black/white; slave/master; being/unbeing; alive/dead. There's no shortage of food for thought with Octavian at the helm.

Questions About Life, Consciousness, and Existence

  1. Is isolation necessary for deep thoughts on life, consciousness, and existence?
  2. Can being only be defined through its opposite, unbeing?
  3. How does Octavian define freedom?
  4. Are hierarchies necessary to understand life?

Chew on This

Freedom in life is only an illusion; true freedom can only be found in death.

Being a black slave gives Octavian a deeper, more compassionate perspective on human existence.

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