Study Guide

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

By M.T. Anderson


At the core of Octavian Nothing is the fundamental hypocrisy of the pre-revolutionary American colonies' fight for freedom from British tyranny. How could American colonials claim their "enslavement" under British rule while supporting slavery in the colonies? The other key issue: the education of a slave. Is it unethical to educate a slave as an experiment to gauge the intelligence of African people? Or is educating a slave—regardless of reason—more important than anything else? Since our main character is born into slavery, pretty much every step of his journey is shaped by it.

Questions About Slavery

  1. How does Octavian's consciousness about slavery develop?
  2. Is Mr. Sharpe's economic argument for slavery convincing? Why or why not?
  3. Why are the texts on slavery in Roman times helpful to Octavian?
  4. How does slavery affect the development of a slave's identity?

Chew on This

Octavian's intention to side with the Brits is perfectly justified given how the colonials have no intention of ending slavery.

Though it is terrible to use Octavian as an experiment, ultimately the education he receives at the College is essential to his ability to escape.

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