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The Sanity of Madness in Edward P Jones' The Known World

The Sanity of Madness in Edward P Jones' The Known World

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Published by neptuneauteur
“In those first days after Henry bought Alice, the patrollers would haul her back to Henry’s plantation, waking him and Caldonia …Come down here and find out about your property’...Henry would come down [and help] …Alice up…[then] sprawled …in the dirt after [the patrollers] had run her back…The patrollers would…ride away [decrying] among themselves…This is what happens when you give niggers the same right as a white man….” (pp. 12-13)
“In those first days after Henry bought Alice, the patrollers would haul her back to Henry’s plantation, waking him and Caldonia …Come down here and find out about your property’...Henry would come down [and help] …Alice up…[then] sprawled …in the dirt after [the patrollers] had run her back…The patrollers would…ride away [decrying] among themselves…This is what happens when you give niggers the same right as a white man….” (pp. 12-13)

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Published by: neptuneauteur on Feb 15, 2008
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07/06/2009

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The Sanity of Madness in Edward P. Jones'
The“Known World”
 
Anjuelle D. Floyd
 In those first days after Henry bought Alice, the patrollers would haul her back to Henry’s plantation, waking him and Caldonia …Come down here and find out about your  property’...Henry would come down
[and help]
…Alice up…
[then]
 sprawled …in the dirt after 
[the patrollers]
had run her back…The patrollers would…ride away
[decrying]
among themselves…This is what happens when you give niggers the same right as awhite man….
” (pp. 12-13)What is it that
happened 
with Henry Townsend in owning Alice that so bothered the
white patrollers who owned no slaves…
?Was it compassion or his display of care toward Alice?As and enslaved person—a woman with “…
half a mind 
…” She has more freedoms with both Henry Townsend the black man that owns her and also with the white patrollers?Is Alice truly mad? Or is the at least veneer of her madness a reflection of the sickly and poisonous emotional conditions of her surroundings?We are told the story of a woman on the last plantation Alice had lived. The womanyearning freedom, had thrown herself into a well with the intention of swimming her wayhome.
9/21/2007 
(all excerpts taken from Edward P. Jones’
The Known World 
of 4
ISBN-
0007195303
))
1
 
The Sanity of Madness in Edward P. Jones'
The“Known World”
 
Anjuelle D. Floyd
 No one ever drank out of that well again. It had been the well whites had drunk from. Even after they dug a new one, they would not allow the Negroes to use the well 
[intowhich to the
 ] slave woman
[had jumped and]
swam home in. Every slave on the plantation wanted to drink of the water that gave a woman the power of a fish…the white people bricked over the well…said they had poisoned 
it.” (pp. 294- 296)Madness or the appearance of insanity possesses great power over the inhabitants of Manchester, Virginia.But Moses, the overseer on the deceased Henry Townsend’s plantation knows more.With intentions of making love to Henry’s widow, Caldonia, Moses sends his wife andchild into freedom. He sets them on the course to escape Virginia and the South by placing them in the charge of Alice—the woman possessing “…
half a mind 
…”
 I got a job for you…and if you do it right, you won’t be have to be nobody’s slave nomore.
” (p. 293)Alice at first resists, feigning her insanity.
 I met a dead man layin in Massa lane...
[s]
hewanted to chant…
[then considered]
Maybe if she lifted her arms now, they would rewarher for all that singing in the pas and raise her up to freedom…”
Moses pierces the veil of Alice’s machinations “…‘
You, go on, cause I got my eye on
9/21/2007 
(all excerpts taken from Edward P. Jones’
The Known World 
of 4
ISBN-
0007195303
))
2
 
The Sanity of Madness in Edward P. Jones'
The“Known World”
 
Anjuelle D. Floyd
 you…both my eyes.’ He watched her go
…[adding]
That mule be waiting for you in themorning 
…” (pp. 293-294)The story closes with Caldonia’s brother, Calvin, having escaped the virulent system of slavery and reached Washington, D.C. having written a letter to Caldonia. His wordsdescribe two paintings he has seen, “…
a grand piece of art that is part tapestry, part  painting, and part clay structure—all in one exquisite Creation…It is a…kind of map of the life of the County of Manchester, Virginia…a map of life…no people on this ‘map,’  just all the houses and barns and roads and cemeteries and wells in our Manchester 
...”(p. 384)He describes the second as: “….
another Creation...that may well be even moremiraculous than the one of the County.
[It]
is about your home, Caldonia…your  plantation…what God sees when he looks down…nothing 
[is]
missing, not a cabin, not abarn, not a chicken, not a horse. No single person…And again the words at the bottomright hand corner are the stitched words, ‘Alice Night 
.’” (p. 385)Clearly Alice held some wits about her, was not completely mad. She had “…
half amind 
…”But what of the other half?
9/21/2007 
(all excerpts taken from Edward P. Jones’
The Known World 
of 4
ISBN-
0007195303
))
3

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