Study Guide

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

By M.T. Anderson

Visions of America

Is America a land of plenty, given to the colonials by God? Is it the land of liberty and freedom? Or is it a land that was stolen from those who were here first—the Native Americans—and then labored over by African slaves? These questions present the fundamental tension that lies at the heart of Octavian Nothing—and by tension, of course, we are referring to the cavernous space between the stories white men tell themselves and the lived experiences of Octavian and other enslaved people.

Questions About Visions of America

  1. How do Mr. Gitney's and Mr. Sharpe's visions of America relate to each other?
  2. Is it better to have no grand American vision? Or do you need a grand American vision in order to have a purpose in life?
  3. How do the slaves' ideas of America differ from those of their masters? Are there any similarities?
  4. How do all of these visions of America relate to the classic "American Dream"?

Chew on This

Sure, America was built on bloodshed and injustice, but the ends (a wealthy, independent nation) totally justify the means (slavery, war, land-grabbing).

America can only be seen as a nation of—at best—contradictions and—at worst—hypocrisy.

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