Of all the atrocities, man has endured; none has caused more misery anddestruction to the soul than human bondage, also identified as slavery. It isillustrated in Louisa May Alcotts story: My Contraband, originallypublished The Brothers. The Civil War was fought over slavery. It pittedbrother against brother, but this did not kill these brothers, it was the deepand festering hatred they had for each other that sent them to their earlygraves. The story these individuals create is complex and depressing; the maincharacter, Robert is a contraband (a slave who has come to the North to seekfreedom).
Instead of finding freedom, he finds his half brother Ned and his wifeLucy. After the death of his master, Robert arrives from the South to freedom inthe North to work in a hospital caring for wounded men of the war. Hisassignment is to help Miss Dane, a nurse, tend to a dying Rebel. Miss Daneappears to be the narrator in the story She is aware of Roberts troubledexistence and observes despair from the moment their encounter.
Upon their firstmeeting, she sensed sadness from deep within him she remarked, I had seencolored people in what they call the black sulks when, for days, theyneither smiled nor spoke, and scarcely ate. But, this was something more thanthat (528). Miss Dane appears to be a compassionate person; nursing comeseasy to her and she lacks intolerance regarding Roberts color. She had wantedto know and comfort him; and following the impulse of the moment I went inand touched him on the shoulder(529). This is an example of her compassionateview of the contraband. She believed that black boys are far more faithfuland handy than some of the white scamps (528). Robert is content to stay withthe rebel even though he has typhoid. When Miss Dane informs Robert that sincehe himself has never contracted this disease, he may become infected with it, hestates, It dont matter, Missis. Id rather be up here with the feverthan down with those niggers; and there isnt no other place for me. (530).
For seven days, Miss Dane nursed the Rebel and for these seven days, he didregain consciousness. At times his presence could not be felt, until in hisfeverish state he begins to ramble on. At times his rambling would be incoherentother times she would be able to understand what he was saying. On this nightthe Doctor is skeptical about his survival he instructs her to Give him wateras long as he can drink, and if he drops into a natural sleep, it may savehimNothing but sleep or a miracle will keep him now (531). At thatmoment the Rebel called out for Lucy (531). Miss Dane felt some newterror seemed to have gifted him with momentary strength (531). She went tohis side exclaiming, Yes, heres Lucy (531) this agitated the Rebel evenfurther. It was evident when His dull eye fixed upon me, dilating with abewildered look he broke out fiercely Thats a lie shes dead, and sosBob, damn him (531). Miss Dane dozed off, she awoke with a shock as shesprang up she felt A strong hand put me back into my seat and held methere (532). It was Robert, he stood there his eyes full of sombrefire; (532). Miss Dane was confused and stunned by these events. Robert wascalm and told her Sit still, Missus; I won hurt yerbut you waked up tosoon (533). She saw murder in his eyes (533) and began to plead withRobert. She questioned him Why do you hate him? He is not your master(533). Roberts reply, Hes my brother (533), astonished her. Eventhough she was trying to grasp this information, her mind was attempting toderive a plan to hang on to her life and the Rebels. Again, she pleaded withRobert only this time not for an explanation. She feared for her life and forthe Rebels but seeing Roberts mind was full of revenge and hatred, she needed toknow why. She pressed Robert further until he agreed; he had been waiting tokill the Rebel until he found out about Lucy. Miss Dane questioned, WhosLucy (534), his reply My wife- he took her (534) only incited hercuriosity further. She persuaded him to tell her his life. Ned is hishalf-brother whom Robert declares He always hated me, I looked so like oldMarster; he dont (534). He acknowledged that his father the Marster waskind to everyone me, specially…(534). When Robert saw Lucy at anotherplantation and the Marster found out the Robert liked her he bought her. Robertmarried her and they developed a strong bond. This bond lasted only a shortwhile. The death of the Marster changed Roberts life forever. This promptedthe return of Ned who had been away. Finally Neds hatred pertaining Robertwould now be revealed, any happiness Robert knew was going to be stripped fromhim. First, Ned sold his mother to another plantation he seized Lucy forhimself. Hatred began to seethe inside Robert he located Ned and declared, Ihalf murdered him an tonight Ill finish (535). Ned felt he hadachieved his final revenge by whipping Robert and the sale of him. Robert neversaw Lucy again. He believed destiny reunited him with Ned. He waited for achance to find out about Lucy therefore allowing Ned to live a little longer.
The omission by Ned that Lucy had cut her throat (532) was the ——-thatRobert needed to cleanse his hatred of Ned. Roberts story brought out thecompassion in Miss Dane. She was able to understand and feel some of the hatredRobert felt for Ned, as a human being she was aware that she must make everyeffort to keep Ned alive regardless of her feelings towards him. She appealed toRoberts inner yearning, the glimmer of hoe that Lucy may still be alive. Hequestioned her Do you believe. If I let Master Ned live, the Lord will giveme back my Lucy (536). She replied, As surely as there is a Lord you willfind her here or in the beautiful hereafter, where there is no black or white,no master and no slave (536). This small amount of hope was what was needed tokeep Ned alive, shortly. Miss Dane and the Doctor helped Robert start over. Heenlisted in the 54th Regiment. He fought bravely taking risks, which pointed tohis desire to die and join Lucy. Miss Dane received a letter stating, Illfight fer yer till Im killed, which I hope will be fore long (538). He wassent to fight at Fort Wagner. While there he spotted Ned He was the fustup (540) Ned shouted Bob (540). Robert shouted Marster Ned (540).
He ran towards Ned who stabbed him with a sword in return Roberts fellowsoldier did the same to Ned. Miss Dane while she acknowledges that the act ofmurder is wrong at times, it is understandable. The world Ned and Robert werefrom was the same and yet they are opposite. The slave and the master will neverbe equal. Ned is allowed to inflict atrocities towards Robert that the modernman would never be expected to take. Yet it was allowed Robert was notconsidered a human by many. They only thing these two brothers shared were thelocation of their death. They died at Fort Wagner; the war however played asmall role. Their deaths began years before with the burning hatred that wassmoldering inside each other. The atrocity of human bondage demonstrates how twomen were treated so differently even though they had the same father and wereraised on the same plantation. Their lives were miles apart.
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