Applying Archetypal Literary Theory to The Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill

NatureThe Book of Negroes by Lawrence Hill, can have different archetypal literary theories depending on how you, as a reader, view the concept of the book. The second third of the book did not end up being what I believed it would. As I continuously read the first part of the book, I’ve always seen Aminata being such a quiet, innocent girl. I believe the journey across the ocean had really changed Aminata and made her realize that she must survive on her own by expanding her knowledge.

Aminata’s character fits right in with the hero archetype. As she has always obeyed the rules and beliefs of her culture, she considered her life perfect and unchangeable before he parents were killed and she was taken. Once Aminata met the toubabs and Master Appleby, she is forced to choose between obeying her culture or being killed for disobeying the rules of the masters that own her. At this point of the book is where I consider Aminata is struggling to keep herself in tact.

Throughout the book, the author continuously uses the term ‘moon’ in the context of years. This is understandable as time must be taken note of somehow back then. I also believe that the ocean that is crossed symbolizes a new a life. Aminata describes her new name, “Meena”, as being “a new name for the second life of a girl who survived the great river crossing”(127).  I believe while being on the ocean symbolizes death. Chekura talked much about being happy once they have crossed the ocean, though, while they were on the ocean it seemed dark and traumatic for anyone on the boat.

Aminata doesn’t only characterize as the basic hero archetype, but also as Mother Earth who contacts people and offers spiritual and emotional nourishment (Literary Devices). Aminata offers her ability to nourish the pregnant mothers who had been captivated as well. Aminata doesn’t only continue to delivery the babies of the pregnant women because her ability keeps her alive, but because this is one connection she has to her mother. Aminata’s strive to learn new things, help her teach others. As she spends much of her time with Georgia shortly after she had crossed the river, Aminata teaches Georgia how to nourish the pregnant women and take care of them. Aminata cares for many of the people she interacts with on an emotional basis just by being able to speak their language. She’s able to fulfill their needs and wants, as she is much known to be gifted. She helps the homelanders understand the toubabs to prevent them from any beatings. She also helps the toubabs as well as this becomes the key to help her stay alive. I believe the only reason Aminata is still alive is because she carries these gifts that are very cherish able to the masters.

Not only does Aminata give a Mother Earth archetype, but Georgia does as well. Georgia is more of a mother figure towards Aminata as she guides and teaches her the how to survive. Since the day Georgia found Aminata she has taken care of her like if she was a child of her own. Georgia was very trusted by Aminata as she “felt safe in her presence” and “fell into a sleep more profound than any she had known for many moons” (126).  I believe Georgia reminds Aminata of her mother, as she believes her warm body and her smell is comforting beside her (126). Throughout her experience on this new land, she spends most of her time with Georgia. Georgia shows patience with Aminata as she helps her learn a new language. Georgia is always teaching Aminata new things to make her life a bit more easier on the land. She talks all the time, finding many anything and everything to teach Aminata. She reminds me of any typical mother that would take their child out to meet

Mother Earth.

new people and have an answer to every question they ask. Although, Georgia seems to get annoyed with all of Aminata’s questions, she understands that Aminata just wants to learn something new about her own life. She taught Aminata that she is African and that the purpose of them being captured is so they can be slaves (135).

I believe the main character, Aminata’s, journey and Georgia’s, mother figure archetype journey align. Because they’re very similar in character, Georgia’s character seems as if it is meant to be Aminata’s character throughout the rest of the book. Although the book doesn’t mention much about Georgia’s past, it seems that she can relate it to what Aminata is going through at this point of the book. I believe the author meant for Aminata’s character to be the spitting image of Georgia as she grows up. Georgia is a positive character that influences Aminata in many ways. I believe that what Aminata learns from Georgia will reflect the person Aminata will become later in the book. I believe the loss of Aminata’s child will help her grow upon her journey and become a positive influence to others. Aminata will use this tragedy as strength to keep moving forward in life and survive. She will become a better hero throughout the book.

Works cited

  “Archetype – Examples and Definition of Archetype.” Literary Devices. Literary Devices, 11 Mar. 2015. Web. 02 May 2017.     

Hill, Lawrence. The Book of Negroes. New York: W.W. Norton, 2015. Print.                     


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