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Obi or, The History of the Three-Fingered Jack

Page history last edited by PBworks 13 years, 4 months ago

William Earle: Obi or, The History of Three-Fingered Jack



Upon reading Obi/Hx of Three-Fingered Jack I was struck by how Earle paints such a mythical picture of Jack’s inherent legacy of heroism. This is not something new to us. We have seen this justification of the black hero again and again: Touissant, Bug-Jargal, and now Jack. There is a fable-like beginning to Jack’s story: he is allocated to avenge his father’s death while he is still in the womb. Jack is different from all the other slaves, even from birth. “Jack had a soul, even in infancy, superior to such whining as the other slaves”, Jack’s “youthful fiery soul led him to imagine himself the destroyer of all Europe”, he was “nearly seven feet in height” and “would with ease perform the office of any two negroes within the plantation” (Earle 72). I find it so interesting that, again and again, we see the need of white writers to qualify their black antagonists with Western heroic qualities.


Samantha Luceri


I loved how Harrop cons Makro and Amri into trusting him by using Christianity as a hook. The use of religion to gain agency over a person or group of people certainly isn't new -- we saw it happen during the Crusades, in America under the guise of "Manifest Destiny," and even in modern America (for example, a husband using isolated portions of the Bible to subject power over a wife). I don't think that the words or ideas about God that Harrop conveys are necessarily faulty within themselves; in fact, a lot of the terminology that Harrop uses to describe his Creator is also employed by Amri when she discusses her God of Africa (the apostrophe, the afterlife, the ability of God to manipulate and control the forces of nature). The intent behind the language is the problem. Could it be that Amri and Harrop "worship" the same God and simply employ language to manipulate him to their separate, individual ends? And if the God they follow is one and the same, could a European make Jack's use of obeah fit into his or her idea of God and the practice of religion?


Bryan D. Peach


Like previous books we have read, Obi portrays the hero of the story as very western. Like Sam explained, he is given qualities of a western hero. Even his physical attributes are "white." "His nose was not like the generality of blacks, squat and flat, but rather aquiline, and his skin remarkably clear. He discovered a great deal of expression in his countenance, and a very look of reproach from him would strike terror to his fellow-slaves" (Earle 72). George further explains Obi to Charles when he says, "I have seen this three-fingered Jack, and he was every thing in soul and person requisite for a hero" (Earle 73). Like Joanna, Obi is appreciated more because he is physically more similar to George. It is interesting that Earle feels the need to use these qualities as justification for having a black hero.


Erica Osterloo


It was interesting to discover that the setting that Earle displays in his writing was, not entirely, but partly false.his description of the Jamaican colony contained faulty information, as we are told int eh introduction. that's cool! he made up how he envisioned the area to be. sure he may have gone there and did see what it was like, but he choose not to. he wanted to set up the environment of his story to support his character Jack. as was said above, Earle putting the western hero into Jack was very interesting. He wanted this character to be liked by readers, instead of hated for causing rebellion and murdering others. Jack is described as "one who, had he shone in a higher sphere, would have proved as bright a luminary as ever graced the Roman annals or ever boldly asserted the rights of a Briton. His cause was great and noble, for to private wrongs he added the liberty of his countrymen, and stood alone a bold and daring defender of the Rights of Men" (16-17). The historical accounts of Jack earlier mention none of that. Jack was a reble that needed to die in the eyes of the whites. Earle shows us that even though people felt that way, whose to say it was the truth. Jack stood for human rights, and that is enough to create within him a soul that we can emulate and honor. Matt



I agree with Sam in finding it interesting that again we seem to have stumbled upon another hero-based narrative, much like the others we have already read.  I think Earle does a nice job in setting three fingered jack up as a hero because he makes him believable and intriguing.  I was also interested while reading the introduction about the idea of using this book to teach the public about obeah and the religion of the Afro-Caribbean.  I think this is such an important part of many atlantic cultures that is often overlooked  because we just focus on slavery and the violence that happened because of it, and not so much on learning about the actual people and cultures this was happening to.  I am really enjoying being able to get another perspective on these things in class, like the obeah religion as a perfect example.  I think this novel is a great way to access this kind of knowledge to the public. 


Jillian Winn


Even in the first few pages, Earle already begins to protest what so many people believed to be perfectly honorable.  Earle starts off the book by voicing some of his opinions about the ignorance of the slave trade and the mentalities of those involved.  But as we have seen in other readings, it was not uncommon to find opposition to the slave trade, but Earle’s book it seems takes a different approach.  Hugo found humanization in the slaves through Perriot, but he still was not completely opposed to slavery, for upon the back of slavery had he gotten to where he was.  Earle, on the other hand, states “MAN cannot be a slave to MAN.”  He goes on to ask how a person can be property and how a “respectable man” can still be what he claims after committing the atrocities that he has.  Can this “respectable man” still retain that, “respectableness”, even though he owns “large possessions” and has “robbed” another MAN of his right to live freely?  Such was the “Christianity of the Europeans who profess humanity”.  It seems that Earle uses this novel as a means to wrestle with the conflicts even within himself, his own bloodlines, but his disdain for others around him.  Although the text fills itself with empowered black heros and heroines, Earle lives through them, their words are his words, their anger his anger.  And just as the Amri and Makro were once duped into believing the kind words of the captain, it seems that at one point Earle most likely bought into the belief that slavery was all done for the greater good.


Evan Gallagher


I really enjoyed reading this book and found the narrator refreshing because he is removed from the action and approaches his subject with seeming innocence.  I found his dipiction of Jack's mother very interesting in that he clearly means to praise her but also falls into the trap of painting her as the vengeful harpy who polutes her son's perceptions.  He does this in order to demonstrate her resilence but I cant help but feel he makes her rather villanous in the process.  On thing I noted at the very beginning that I have found prevelent in works of white individuals regarding blacks: in order for them to seem respectable and acceptable as heros, their appearence must be similar to a white man.  Often the thing that the author dispells is the protaganist's "flat nose" in favor of a more Euopean one.  Strange that one cannot accept people to inhabit a certain character unless they look the part, in this case to be a hero in a white man's world you must resemble him.  Another thing I found rather annoying was the ending; Jack dies by treacherous ambush and thw white couple lives happily ever after (however I was satisfied that that beast captain starved to death).  I realize that this is a little childish but why does the black man have to die alone, ambushed, hunted like an animal and crazed by the loss of those he loves while the lovers are able to fufill their hopes.  I just wish he died more peacefully.

Alyssa Dytko

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