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Sapphira And The Slave Girl de Willa Cather
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Sapphira And The Slave Girl (original: 1940; edição: 1940)

de Willa Cather (Autor)

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5811531,007 (3.67)73
Willa Cather's twelfth and final novel, Sapphira and the Slave Girl, is her most intense fictional engagement with political and personal conflict. Set in Cather's Virginia birthplace in 1856, the novel draws on family and local history and the escalating conflicts of the last years of slavery--conflicts in which Cather's family members were deeply involved, both as slave owners and as opponents of slavery. Cather, at five years old, appears as a character in an unprecedented first-person epilogue. Tapping her earliest memories, Cather powerfully and sparely renders a Virginia world that is simultaneously beautiful and, as she said, "terrible."   The historical essay and explanatory notes explore the novel's grounding in family, local, and national history; show how southern cultures continually shaped Cather's life and work, culminating with this novel; and trace the progress of Cather's research and composition during years of grief and loss that she described as the worst of her life. More early drafts, including manuscript fragments, are available for Sapphira and the Slave Girl than for any other Cather novel, and the revealing textual essay draws on this rich resource to provide new insights into Cather's composition process.… (mais)
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Título:Sapphira And The Slave Girl
Autores:Willa Cather (Autor)
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Sapphira and the Slave Girl de Willa Cather (1940)

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59. Sapphira and the Slave Girl by Willa Cather
published: 1940
format: 295-page paperback (2010 Vintage)
acquired: June
read: Nov 30 – Dec 15
time reading: 5 hr 49 min, 1.2 min/page
rating: 4
locations: 1850’s rural Virginia, near Winchester, Va
about the author born near Winchester, VA, later raised in Red Cloud, NE. December 7, 1873 – April 24, 1947

Cather's final novel has the affect of a nostalgic look at slavery. I really don't know how else to put it. This book is largely a non-critical exploration of a well run Virginia planation house with twenty slaves. The master of the house is wheel-chair bound Sapphira, who inherited her twenty-odd slaves. Her husband married in, is against the idea of slavery, but generally keeps to the side of these things. The slaves all have a role, set partially by conditioning, partially temperament. There is a level of comfort and security in these roles. And when everything is going well, there is a kind of mutual affection between owner and slave, even pride. This is all...well, really disturbing.

Cather seems very interested in roles, and in how rigid this whole system is. There is no simple way to mess with things if you're against slavery, and there no benefit to try if you're enslaved. Freedom is not a ticket to a better life, but a fragile existence severed from family and the basic life security the planation provides. When Henry offers to buy a slave and free him and set up in a profession, the slave, a skilled miller, balks at the problems this will cause and the loss of his family. Sapphira herself is actually trapped in her role of master - although she may not see it that way exactly.

This all takes place in 1856 Virginia, very close to the town of Winchester, where she was born in 1873. That is, this, what she is describing, is the world her parents' grew up in.

I liked this novel. It's clearly not her best work, but whatever its flaws and limitations, and there are many, it has Cather's voice and her integrity. She is not re-writing history, or white washing crimes. This is her view of how this world could have been, and therefore part of how we got wherever we are now. And, thinking it through, this theme of people trapped within their world, living lives within larger forces, is actually one that kind of pervades through all her work. It's just more foregrounded here.

I'm gratefully not done with Willa Cather yet. Next year I plan to read through her short stories, and the one novel that I missed, her first, titled [Alexander's Bridge].

2020
https://www.librarything.com/topic/322920#7354163 ( )
2 vote dchaikin | Dec 25, 2020 |
An engrossing story about the relationship between master and slave--and all the socio-cultural elements that complicate it. ( )
  DrFuriosa | Dec 4, 2020 |
Oh, it's nice to get back to something really good after all those non-girly books I had to read over vacation. Willa Cather is a true literary gem. Why isn't she more widely read today?

Anyway, this is a sort of historical novel concerning a Virginia family just before the civil War. They live in the hills of Virginia, not too far from Winchester. Mrs. Colbert, Sapphira, grew up rich and privileged. Her servants are all slaves. Mr. Colbert is a miller, not really of the class or pretentiousness of his spouse. He has some reservations regarding slavery, and would probably turn the slaves free were they not technically his wife's "property". At some point, Sapphira turns against her personal maid, Nancy, aka "the slave girl". She thinks Nancy has something going on with her spouse. She contrives first to sell Nancy, but her spouse blocks that move, because in those days women had agency only through the good grace of their spouses. Then, she contrives to get rid of Nancy by having one of her roguish relatives come visit and have him try to "fool" Nancy, i.e. "seduce" her (well, rape, actually, but that wasn't a word used in polite company in olden times). So, how to save Nancy?

It's rather an interesting account of attitudes people had back in the day toward the humanity or not of others, and once again demonstrates that inherited wealth and privilege can so readily make one an asshole.
( )
  lgpiper | Jun 21, 2019 |
This was Willa Cather’s last published novel, and not her best. In it, she returned to her Virginia roots and attempted to write a novel about slavery. Sort of. Set in 1856, the eponymous Sapphira is the wife of a mill owner, and rationalizes her black “servants” by not actually buying or selling them. Just, you know, enslaving and demeaning them over generations. Oh, okay. No problem.

Sapphira’s husband, Henry, is a spineless character who has essentially moved his residence to the mill he operates. He seems vaguely opposed to slavery but relies on the family’s “servants” to care for his needs. Sapphira’s widowed daughter Rachel is opposed to slavery and keeps her distance, living several miles away with her two daughters. The “servants” are all stereotypically happy in their work, taking pride in making the silver shine and all that. When Henry’s nephew comes to visit and begins to prey upon Nancy, a mixed-race slave of questionable parentage, it seems the only solution is to whisk her away to Canada via the Underground Railroad.

Meh. This novel plods along from one event to another, with no dramatic tension whatsoever. Conflicts and relationship issues are hinted at but left unresolved. Anti-slavery sentiment is expressed, but only half-heartedly, and the narrative is littered with pejoratives that come across as part of Cather’s vocabulary rather than “just” the voice of her characters. Why did I persist to the end? Who knows. ( )
  lauralkeet | Jan 25, 2019 |
Literàriament, no val res (per mi) però he après maneres de viure a Virgínia i, en general, estats del sud dels EUA esclavistes, durant el segle XIX. Personatges totalment increïbles. ( )
  Montserratmv | Mar 14, 2018 |
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Willa Cather's twelfth and final novel, Sapphira and the Slave Girl, is her most intense fictional engagement with political and personal conflict. Set in Cather's Virginia birthplace in 1856, the novel draws on family and local history and the escalating conflicts of the last years of slavery--conflicts in which Cather's family members were deeply involved, both as slave owners and as opponents of slavery. Cather, at five years old, appears as a character in an unprecedented first-person epilogue. Tapping her earliest memories, Cather powerfully and sparely renders a Virginia world that is simultaneously beautiful and, as she said, "terrible."   The historical essay and explanatory notes explore the novel's grounding in family, local, and national history; show how southern cultures continually shaped Cather's life and work, culminating with this novel; and trace the progress of Cather's research and composition during years of grief and loss that she described as the worst of her life. More early drafts, including manuscript fragments, are available for Sapphira and the Slave Girl than for any other Cather novel, and the revealing textual essay draws on this rich resource to provide new insights into Cather's composition process.

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