The Invention of Wings

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Hetty Handful Grimké Character Analysis

One of the novel’s two protagonists, Handful (called Hetty by her white masters) is a slave of the Grimké household who is given to Sarah as a maid. As Sarah and Handful become friends, Sarah teaches Handful to read. Handful is intelligent and takes advantage of her ability to read to broaden her world even as she remains enslaved. Handful takes after her mother Charlotte, never accepting the rhetoric of slavery that continually tries to steal her self-worth. When Sarah goes North, Handful becomes the head seamstress for the Grimkés and begins to act on her rebellious tendencies, using red thread as a reminder of her desire for freedom. Handful joins the group of slaves planning revolt under the leadership of Denmark Vesey. Handful never gives up on finding her freedom, and makes sure that she and her half-sister Sky reach freedom in the North after Charlotte’s death.

Hetty Handful Grimké Quotes in The Invention of Wings

The The Invention of Wings quotes below are all either spoken by Hetty Handful Grimké or refer to Hetty Handful Grimké. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
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). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Penguin Books edition of The Invention of Wings published in 2015.
Part 1 Quotes

I was shrewd like mauma. Even at ten I knew this story about people flying was pure malarkey. We weren’t some special people who lost our magic. We were slave people, and we weren't going anywhere. It was later I saw what she meant. We could fly all right, but it wasn't any magic to it.

Related Characters: Hetty Handful Grimké (speaker), Charlotte Grimké (Mauma)
Page Number: 3
Explanation and Analysis:

Charlotte tells Handful a legend about their ancestors who had wings in Africa, but lost those wings when they came to America. Handful always knew that this story wasn’t strictly true, but she did not fully understand the metaphorical meaning behind this story until she was an adult. Kidd uses flight as a symbol for freedom, the ability to make one’s own choices for his or her life. Handful’s ancestors had this ability, but lost their autonomy when they were forced into slavery in the United States. It seems as though Handful and her family’s lives are hopeless, with no chance of ever getting their freedom back or even leaving the house where they are slaves. Yet as Handful grows, she sees the ways that she and her mother can still resist their treatment. Handful knows that she and her family can still fly, by choosing never to let go of their own self-worth in the face of oppression. Calling back to the title, Handful needs to “invent” her wings—that is, find ways to take back her freedom by asserting herself and her personhood to the world.

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Don't let her fall anymore. That's the prayer I said. Missus told us God listened to everybody, even a slave got a piece of God's ear. I carried a picture of God in my head, a white man, bearing a stick like missus or going round dodging slaves the way master Grimké did, acting like he'd sired a world where they don’t exist. I couldn’t see him lifting a finger to help.

Related Characters: Hetty Handful Grimké (speaker), Charlotte Grimké (Mauma), Mary Grimké (Mother / Missus), John Grimké (Father)
Page Number: 44
Explanation and Analysis:

After Charlotte is caught with a piece of stolen green silk, she is forced to spend an hour with her leg tied up in such a way that if Charlotte drops her leg, a rope will choke her. This cruel punishment takes place in the yard, in full view of all the other slaves – including Charlotte’s daughter Handful. Handful watches her mother in horror and winces when Charlotte falls, as Kidd once again zeroes in on the true pain of life as a slave. Yet Handful seems to have accepted this pain to some extent, seeking only to minimize her mother’s distress instead of wishing it away completely. Rather than praying to God that Charlotte’s punishment would be ended early, or that the white masters would have compassion, Handful simply prays that Charlotte will not fall again.

Aside from increasing the pathos of Charlotte’s punishment, Handful’s prayer also points to the ways that the white slave holders use religion to uphold their way of life. Handful recognizes that the white masters care very little for the slaves’ welfare, and she assumes that their white God cares just as little. White ministers often use the Bible to admonish the slaves to be obedient, ignoring any injustice that the slaves might suffer in the process. Handful knows that white people will never admit that she exists as a person, much less offer her compassion or mercy. Any help that Handful needs, she will have to demand for herself.

People say love gets fouled by a difference big as ours. I didn’t know for sure whether Miss Sarah’s feelings came from love or guilt. I didn’t know whether mine came from love or a need to be safe. She loved me and pitied me. And I loved her and used her. It never was a simple thing. That day, our hearts were Pure as they ever would get.

Related Characters: Hetty Handful Grimké (speaker), Sarah Grimké
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:

Handful acknowledges the complex levels of the friendship she shares with Sarah. Sarah legally owns Handful, introducing a power dynamic where Handful can never be Sarah’s equal and they cannot have a traditional friendship with degrees of give and take. Sarah might be motivated by guilt to treat Handful better than she would really like to, as offering kindness to Handful allows Sarah to assuage her conscience at her family’s part in the horrific lives that slaves often lead. And for her part, Handful might be staying close to Sarah for the advantages that Sarah can give Handful in the house, rather than real affection for Sarah. Sarah’s position as a white woman can shield Handful from the worst punishments of the other Grimké women and can give Handful access to beautiful things that Handful would never otherwise have seen. Though Handful knows there are mitigating factors in the bond between herself and Sarah, she still believes that there is a pure foundation to their relationship. As children, Sarah and Handful can connect on a “pure” level that they will never be able to reach as adult women.

…I remembered the oath I’d made to help Hetty become free, a promise impossible to fulfill and one that continued to cause me no end of guilt, but it suddenly rang clear in me for the first time: Charlotte said I should help Hetty get free any way I could. Turning, I watched her carry the lantern to my dressing table, light swilling about her feet. When she set it down, I said, “Hetty, shall I teach you to read?”

Related Characters: Sarah Grimké (speaker), Hetty Handful Grimké, Charlotte Grimké (Mauma)
Page Number: 57
Explanation and Analysis:

Sarah previously promised Handful’s mother, Charlotte, that she would help free Handful someday, even though her first attempt to emancipate Handful failed. Sarah remembers this oath many times as she grows closer to Handful, but is unable to think of anything to help Handful until she opens up her own definition of “freedom.” Sarah still cannot legally or physically free Handful from a life of slavery, yet Sarah can give Handful the necessary tools to free Handful’s mind from slavery-imposed ignorance. Sarah knows that teaching any slave to read is a rebellious act, having already been chastised for teaching the slave children the alphabet at Sunday School. The ability to read (and write) give slaves the opportunity to broaden their world beyond the plantation or house where they work, and also negates the argument that slaves deserve their position because they are not as intelligent as their white masters. Teaching Handful to read is one step closer to helping Handful free herself, just as important an act in the long run as freeing Handful in body alone.

Part 2 Quotes

Goods and chattel… We were like the gold leaf mirror and the horse saddle. Not full-fledge people. I didn’t believe this, never had believed it a day of my life, but if you listen to white folks long enough, some sad, beat-down part of you starts to wonder. All that pride about what we were worth left me then. For the first time, I felt the hurt and shame of just being who I was.
… When mauma saw my raw eyes, she said, “Ain’t nobody can write down in a book what you worth."

Related Characters: Hetty Handful Grimké (speaker), Charlotte Grimké (Mauma) (speaker)
Page Number: 112
Explanation and Analysis:

Handful sneaks into Master Grimké’s library to find out the price to buy freedom for herself and her mother. Though she is initially pleased that their prices are relatively high, Handful later realizes that any monetary price at all far underestimates the worth of a human soul. Handful’s shame and embarrassment at knowing her price is another example of the evils of slavery. The Grimkés’ slaves are even listed after the Grimkés’ other possession, as if the humans that they own are not even the most important objects in the Grimkés’ eyes. Though Handful rejects the idea that slaves are not as human as white people, it is hard for her to live surrounded by those ideas without feeling some of their effects. This psychological damage is yet another injury that slaves must bear, one that is perhaps even more harmful than the physical punishments that constantly threaten them. Handful is saved from falling into despair and depression by her mother’s unshakeable faith in their worth as human beings. Charlotte never forgets the importance of resisting all the ways that slavery marks their lives, and tells Handful that her price can never be written down by anyone.

She'd immersed herself in forbidden privileges, yes, but mostly in the belief she was worthy of those privileges. What she'd done was not a revolt, it was a baptism.
I saw then what I hadn’t seen before, that I was very good at despising slavery in the abstract, in the removed and anonymous masses, but in the concrete, intimate flesh of the girl beside me, I'd lost the ability to be repulsed by it. I'd grown comfortable with the particulars of evil.

Related Characters: Sarah Grimké (speaker), Hetty Handful Grimké
Page Number: 115
Explanation and Analysis:

When the Grimké family returns a day earlier than expected from a month in Belmont, Sarah catches Handful taking a bath in Sarah’s copper tub – a privilege a slave would never be allowed to take in the presence of white people. Sarah is at first angry, but later reflects on the event and calls Handful’s bath a baptism, metaphorically giving Handful a new life where she is no longer a slave unworthy of comfort and riches. Handful is not planning a revolution at this point, a word that connotes punishing the white people for their poor treatment of Handful all her life. This bath is simply a way for Handful to assert her personhood, and her right to have all the things that white people have. Handful is not looking for black people to be superior to white people—she is just attempting to find a world where black people are treated as valuable and fully human.

At first Sarah cannot believe Handful’s audacity at using her beautiful things, surprising even herself with her anger. Sarah had thought that she truly believed in equality between the races, a principle that should translate into Sarah happily allowing Handful to share in all of her own fine things. Yet Sarah has not fully escaped the influence of society, surrounded by people who consistently perpetuate the idea that black slaves are naturally inferior to white people. Kidd recognizes how easily people can fall back on the bad ideologies of their family and childhood, even if – like Sarah – they rationally know that these principles are wrong. Living with slavery every day, it is all too easy for Sarah to simply accept this institution as the way the world is. Sarah has to put in effort day after day to free her mind from the worldview of slavery, so that she can work to free the slaves from their own chains.

There were ten good-size squares. I spread them out cross the frame. The colors she'd used outdid God and the rainbow. Reds, purples, oranges, pinks, yellows, blacks, and browns. They hit my ears more than my eyes. They sounded like she was laughing and crying in the same breath. It was the finest work ever to come from mauma’s hands.

Related Characters: Hetty Handful Grimké (speaker), Charlotte Grimké (Mauma)
Related Symbols: Charlotte’s Quilt and Black Triangles
Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:

After Handful’s mother disappears, Handful goes against her mother’s wishes and looks at the quilt that Charlotte has been sewing for two years. This quilt is Charlotte’s finest work as a seamstress, not just for the techniques and skill used in the applique, but for the story that the quilt tells. No matter how many wonderful things Charlotte sews for the Grimkés, her finest work will always be this quilt that she sewed for herself. Handful describes the vitality and life that the quilt encompasses, explaining how it involves more senses than just her eyes with the colors that leap off the fabric. Charlotte’s life has been hard, and there are scenes of brutal physical and emotional pain told on those quilt squares. But Charlotte’s indomitable spirit turns that anguish into something beautiful. Though there is intense pain, like Charlotte crying, there is also intense joy, like Charlotte laughing. The quilt is a way for Charlotte to take control of her life, asserting that she has a perspective on these struggles and triumphs that deserves to be told.

Part 3 Quotes

The axe didn’t fall on me. Didn't my Lord deliver Handful? The axe didn’t fall on Goodis either, and I felt surprise over the relief this caused me. But there was no God in any of it. Nothing but the four of them standing there, and Mariah, still on her knees. I couldn't bear to look at Tomfry with the hat squashed under his arm. Prince and Eli, studying the ground. Binah, holding her paper fan, staring at Phoebe. A daughter she'd never see again.

Related Characters: Hetty Handful Grimké (speaker), Goodis, Binah, Phoebe
Page Number: 200
Explanation and Analysis:

After the death of Master Grimké, some of the slaves are sold as per the directions in Master Grimké’s will. Handful describes the feelings of relief she has that she was not sold, mixed with the heartache that she feels for the other slaves that are being sent from their home. The slaves are treated in some ways as “part of the family,” as they are given the Grimké name and spend every day contributing to the Grimké household. Even more than that, the slaves that belong to a particular white family form a sort of family with each other. Handful does not particularly like some of her fellow slaves, but still can’t bear to think of Tomfry or Mariah leaving for good. Even the slaves’ blood families are subject to the whims of their masters. Mother and daughter, like Binah and Phoebe, can be separated for life with no way to fight against this cruelty. Handful is aware of these risks, especially after the disappearance of her own mother, yet she cannot stop herself from growing close to Goodis. Their friendship is a source of comfort to Handful, yet is edged with pain at the idea that Goodis could be taken from her at any moment. This moment highlight another source of pain for slaves, as well as the importance of belonging to a family.

Part 4 Quotes

"The Lord has spoken to me," he cried out. "He said, set my people free. When your name is written in the Book, you’re one of us and you’re one of God’s, and we'll take our freedom when God says, Let not your heart be troubled. Neither let it be afraid. You believe in God, believe also in me…” …My name wasn’t in the book, just the men’s, but I would’ve put it in there if I could. I would’ve written it in blood.

Related Characters: Hetty Handful Grimké (speaker), Denmark Vesey (speaker)
Page Number: 224-225
Explanation and Analysis:

As Denmark Vesey’s slave revolt gains more followers, Denmark uses biblical rhetoric to help sway potential converts to their side. He justifies any insecurities that slaves might have about rising up against the “natural order” of black inferiority that is pushed in the Anglican Church. Denmark builds a community of the slaves by having them write their names in a Book, echoing the “Book of Life” that holds the name of all those who are saved in the biblical book of Revelation. The call to action, “You believe in God, believe also in me,” quotes Jesus Christ, comparing Denmark to a savior for this oppressed people. The rebellion and the Book create a place where slaves can come together as people who will receive the same rights as any white person.

Yet while the community of believers promises to free the slaves, it ignores the further oppression of women. Handful is not allowed to sign the book because she is female. Though women like Handful and Denmark’s wife, Susan, contribute just as much to the rebellion efforts – providing food and even stealing arms for the men – their actions are not recognized publically the way the men are. Handful is just as committed to Denmark’s vision of freedom as any of the men are, ready to sign her name in blood or risk her life to obtain a bullet mold. The slave movement is a huge step forward for racial equality, but Kidd does not lose sight of the ways that Denmark’s revolution still needs to address gender equality.

The edict from the judges said we couldn't cry, or say his name, or do anything to mark him, but I took a little piece of red thread from my neck pouch and tied it round one of the twigs on a low, dipping branch to mark the spot. Then I cried my tears and said his name.

Related Characters: Hetty Handful Grimké (speaker), Denmark Vesey
Related Symbols: Red Thread
Page Number: 261
Explanation and Analysis:

After Denmark’s slave revolt is crushed, Charleston officials hang Denmark in a secret location and pass an order that prohibits mourning Denmark in any way. Handful ignores these warnings and follows Denmark’s wagon from his holding cell in the Work House to a field, where she is the only one to witness Denmark’s execution. Though she knows the risks, Handful cannot let Denmark’s grave go unmarked. No matter his “crimes,” Denmark is still a person who deserves to have a memorial for his death. Handful effectively breaks the silence that Charleston officials used to ignore and shame the slaves who wanted to revolt. Handful marks the grave site with red thread, which Kidd has used throughout the novel to symbolize Handful’s spirit and desire for freedom. Handful also deserves the chance to mourn this loss of the dream of freedom. Denmark gave hope to so many slaves that their bondage might end soon, and offered them practical ways to resist their treatment. With Denmark gone, resistance against slavery is a much harder prospect. The red thread shows that Handful is still committed to the dream of freedom despite this heavy blow.

Part 5 Quotes

Mauma's back… She has scars and a full head of white hair and looks old as Methusal, but she's the same inside. I nurse her day and night. She brought my sister with her named Sky. I know that's some name. It comes from mauma and her longings. She always said one day we'd fly like blackbirds.

Related Characters: Hetty Handful Grimké (speaker), Charlotte Grimké (Mauma), Sky
Page Number: 274
Explanation and Analysis:

Charlotte returns to the Grimké house after 13 years with a half-sister that Handful has never met. Handful writes a letter to Sarah describing these developments. Charlotte has been wounded in many ways by life on the plantation where she was forced to live. Handful sees all the new physical scars left by the harsh punishments on the plantation, as well as noticing how Charlotte has been prematurely aged by her life as a slave. Kidd again details the hardships that slaves face and the incredible evil of this institution.

Yet though Charlotte has been hurt, she has not given up on the dream of freedom. Sky’s name is the biggest indicator that Charlotte is still resisting her bonds as much as she can. Handful again remembers the legend about blackbirds that Charlotte told her as a little girl. In that legend, black people had wings – a metaphor for their freedom. Charlotte consistently has faith in a future where black people will fly once more, gaining their freedom back.

"Life is arranged against us, Sarah. And it’s brutally worse for Handful and her mother and sister. We're all yearning for a wedge of sky, aren't we? I suspect God plants these yearnings in us so we'll at least try and change the course of things. We must try, that’s all."

Related Characters: Lucretia Mott (speaker), Hetty Handful Grimké, Sarah Grimké, Charlotte Grimké (Mauma), Sky
Page Number: 275
Explanation and Analysis:

Sarah returns to Philadelphia and lives with Lucretia Mott, the only female minister in their Meeting of Quakers. Sarah and Lucretia become fast friends, such that Sarah trusts Lucretia enough to shares Handful’s letters with her. When Lucretia hears that Handful’s mother, Charlotte, has returned as a slave in the Grimké house, Lucretia encourages Sarah to do something to help change Handful, Charlotte, and Sky’s circumstances. Sarah is afraid of becoming a female minister, knowing that society will judge her for choosing a path beyond the normal female duties of wife and motherhood. Lucretia acknowledges the sexism that Sarah will face, but reminds Sarah that Charlotte, Handful, and Sky must confront both sexism and racism at every turn. Kidd again references the sky as a symbol for freedom, suggesting that Sarah longs for something more than marriage because it is her responsibility to fight for equality. Sarah has the chance to do more for all women, both white and black, by becoming a Quaker minister who publically speaks out against slavery.

Part 6 Quotes

“Course, you’re tired. You worked hard your whole life. That’s all you did was work.”
“Don’t you remember me for that. Don’t you remember I’m a slave and work hard. When you think of me, you say, she never did belong to those people. She never belong to nobody but herself.”

Related Characters: Hetty Handful Grimké (speaker), Charlotte Grimké (Mauma) (speaker)
Page Number: 303-304
Explanation and Analysis:

Charlotte goes out to Handful’s spirit tree to collect her spirit before letting go of the hard life she has led. Handful follows her to say one last goodbye to her mother. In that conversation, Handful acknowledges that Charlotte has every right to be tired after a lifetime of working to the bone for the Grimkés. Charlotte rejects that, however, wanting to be remembered for her rebellious spirit rather than her obedience or how well she held up in a life of drudgery. Charlotte’s spirit always belonged to herself, even when her body was the property of a white man or woman. That spirit is what truly counts, as Charlotte shows Handful how to maintain resistance to slavery despite all consequences. Charlotte’s faith that slaves are fundamentally worthy of freedom inspires Handful to keep working towards her own escape. Charlotte’s legacy is not the legacy of a slave who was bound all her life; it is the legacy of a woman who never gave in to the bonds that others tried to force on her.

I watched her fold her few belongings on top of the quilt and thought, This ain't the same Sarah who left here. She had a firm look in her eye and her voice didn’t dither and hesitate like it used to. She'd been boiled down to a good, strong broth.
Her hair was loose, dangling along the sides of her neck like silk vines, like the red threads I used to tie round the spirit tree, and I saw it then, the strange thing between us. Not love, is it? What is it? It was always there, a roundness in my chest, a pin cushion. It pricked and fastened.

Related Characters: Hetty Handful Grimké (speaker), Sarah Grimké
Related Symbols: Red Thread
Page Number: 355
Explanation and Analysis:

When Handful decides that she and her half-sister, Sky, are running from the Grimké house for good, Sarah comes back to do whatever she can to make sure that Handful and Sky reach the North safely. Handful notices a marked difference in Sarah, now that Sarah has finally devoted her life to her passion for ending slavery. As a young child, the horror of slavery and her repressed feelings about it caused Sarah such psychological trauma that she stuttered and stammered as she tried to speak. Now Sarah can speak smoothly and clearly because she is honest and forthright about fighting for abolition. Speaking against slavery empowers Sarah just as it also helps the slaves that she advocates for.

Handful also compares Sarah’s hair to red thread, which has symbolized Handful’s strong spirit and desire for freedom. Now, the reference to red thread acknowledges how Sarah too sees Handful’s incredible inner courage and will also fight to help those who are still enslaved reach freedom. At this moment, the bond between the two women is clearer than ever. Sarah and Handful have a deep, complex friendship that forms a solid foundation underneath all of the trials and troubles that they face throughout their lives. Like the stitches in the quilt that Handful sews, Sarah and Handful are bonded together in a way that slavery and injustice cannot break.

Sarah put her hand on my arm and left it there while the city heaved away. It was the last square on the quilt… I thought of mauma then, how her bones would always be here. People say don’t look back, the past is past, but I would always look back… When we left the mouth of the harbor, the wind swelled and the veils round us flapped, and I heard the blackbird wings. We rode onto the shining water onto the far distance.

Related Characters: Hetty Handful Grimké (speaker), Sarah Grimké, Charlotte Grimké (Mauma)
Related Symbols: Charlotte’s Quilt and Black Triangles
Page Number: 359
Explanation and Analysis:

As the boat pulls away from the Charleston harbor and takes Handful and Sky towards freedom in the North, Sarah and Handful stand together at the rail and watch the city fade into the distance. Handful calls this moment “the last square of the quilt,” imagining that her journey out of slavery completes her mother’s story quilt. The last square of the quilt shows Handful and Sarah together, able to interact as equals at last. Throughout Charlotte’s life, Charlotte used her quilt to take back her life story from the white masters who try to silence Charlotte’s voice. Handful finally escapes a life of slavery and achieves Charlotte’s dream of a life where her voice is just as strong as anyone else’s voice. Handful keeps Charlotte’s legacy in mind as she moves into her future, keeping her mother’s memory alive. The book ends with the same image of blackbird wings from the blackbird legend in the first chapter. As Charlotte said in the beginning, the slaves did find their wings once again.

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Hetty Handful Grimké Character Timeline in The Invention of Wings

The timeline below shows where the character Hetty Handful Grimké appears in The Invention of Wings. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Part 1: November 1803 - February 1805
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The Evils of Slavery and the Necessity of Resistance Theme Icon
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Hetty Handful Grimké. The novel begins with Handful’s “Mauma” (Charlotte), a slave, telling Handful (the narrator)... (full context)
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Handful is often in trouble with Missus, the mother of the Grimké family (the white masters... (full context)
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...Charlotte spends her rare spare time sewing quilts with black triangles that stand for wings. Handful helps Charlotte by finding feathers and other things in the yard to stuff the quilts,... (full context)
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When Handful works in the yard, she has to be as quiet as possible in order to... (full context)
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Handful. Aunt-Sister, the cook, takes Handful into the kitchen as the house prepares for Sarah’s eleventh... (full context)
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Sarah stammers that she can’t accept Handful, making Missus so angry that she screams. Handful is so scared that she accidently pees... (full context)
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Handful’s Mauma comforts Handful as best she can, telling Handful the story of how their ancestors... (full context)
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Sarah. Sarah wants to give Hetty back to Mother, but Mother just tells Sarah to make peace with their way of... (full context)
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...gives her each day. On the legal paper, Sarah writes a certificate of freedom for Hetty. Sarah leaves the certificate on Father’s desk and goes to sleep dreaming of Hetty’s happiness... (full context)
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...grant her this future. Yet Sarah’s spirits fall when she leaves her room and sees Hetty’s freedom certificate torn in two on the floor. (full context)
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Handful. Handful is uncertain on her first day as Sarah’s maid, and becomes convinced that Sarah... (full context)
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When Sarah finally manages to explain that there is no fire, Missus rages and strikes Handful with her cane. Handful falls to the ground. Missus raises her hand to slap Handful,... (full context)
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...down to lunch after four days of taking meals in her room to protest owning Hetty. Mother asks cuttingly if Sarah found the ripped certificate of freedom. Sarah thinks of appealing... (full context)
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Handful. Handful is still a terrible maid, but she enjoys the small freedoms she can sneak... (full context)
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Sarah. Four months after Sarah is given Handful, Handful does not come in to Sarah’s room in the morning. Sarah goes into the... (full context)
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...owl that Charlotte has been caring for. Sarah tells Charlotte that she tried to free Hetty but was not allowed. Charlotte tells Sarah that she just has to make it up... (full context)
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Sarah thinks obsessively about keeping her promise to free Hetty, and dreads seeing Charlotte again at her fitting for a new Easter dress. Charlotte asks... (full context)
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Handful. The Grimké ladies go to White Point to enjoy the new spring weather, and the... (full context)
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...butler, can investigate a recent theft. A bolt of green silk is gone, finery that Handful cannot even imagine. The slaves are all terrified of being sent to the Work House,... (full context)
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Handful sneaks to her mother’s room the night after the cloth is stolen. Charlotte is angry... (full context)
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Handful follows behind the search group, muttering curses no ten-year-old should know and gathering her courage... (full context)
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Handful stares enchanted at the beautiful silk while Missus lectures Charlotte about her theft. Missus tells... (full context)
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...Sarah finds this shameful, and stares Reverend Hall in the face in an echo of Hetty’s defiance of Mother. (full context)
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Handful. The Monday after Easter, Aunt-Sister tells Charlotte that her punishment will be to have one... (full context)
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At the end of the hour, Tomfry and Aunt-Sister help Charlotte to her bed. Handful gives her water and tries to feed her small bites of food, but Charlotte can’t... (full context)
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Sarah still hasn’t seen Hetty all day, so Sarah goes to the kitchen to find her. Normally the kitchen is... (full context)
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Handful. That night Charlotte begins to have shaking fits, and then finally sleeps. Handful sleeps too,... (full context)
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Handful notices Sarah hiding outside the door, listening to the story too. Charlotte goes on, telling... (full context)
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...to the Charleston house, refusing to bring Shanney too, but Charlotte was already pregnant with Handful. Shanney died before Handful was a year old. At that point, Charlotte ends her story... (full context)
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The next day, Handful tells Sarah that they appreciated her basket. Sarah puts her book down and hugs Handful.... (full context)
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...however, and studies their father’s law books by herself. In the mornings, Sarah reads to Hetty or plays string games with her or watches the ships at harbor. The two girls... (full context)
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Sarah reads Don Quixote to Hetty as Hetty, bored, scratches at mosquito bites. Hetty asks Sarah to tell her about specific... (full context)
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Sarah prepares lessons for Hetty, locking her door and screening the keyhole to avoid any discovery. Hetty picks up the... (full context)
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Sarah and Hetty celebrate Hetty’s 100th word with a tea on the roof of the Grimké’s house. Hetty... (full context)
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Hetty admits that she has seen the button, and that she knows all about symbols like... (full context)
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Handful loves her mother’s new room because she can sneak to sleep with Charlotte without leaving... (full context)
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...slaves ready the house and stables for the storm. The rain hits that night, and Handful sings to herself to distract from the floodwater and the wind. The cellar room floods,... (full context)
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The yard dries out and Lucy, one of Mary’s maids, notices Handful’s writing in the yard. Lucy tells Mary and Handful knows that she has been caught.... (full context)
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...has gravely disappointed him by teaching her slave girl to write. Sarah is aghast that Handful was so careless, but even more upset that her father is so angry. Sarah’s stammer... (full context)
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Father reveals that he is the one who tore up Sarah’s certificate of freedom for Handful, destroying all of Sarah’s ideas that her father appreciates her anti-slavery views. As punishment for... (full context)
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...to the yard, ignoring Binah’s justification that it is only one whip lash. Sarah sees Handful tied to the post with Tomfry waiting behind her, whip in hand. Sarah screams, “No,”... (full context)
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Handful. Handful heals quickly enough from her lash wound, but notices that Sarah simply wastes away... (full context)
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...makes a new baby gown for Missus, who is pregnant with yet another child. When Handful comes down to the cellar to help her, Charlotte brings out a stolen inkwell, quill,... (full context)
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...hire herself out and sew for pay. Scared of the danger if Charlotte gets caught, Handful asks her mother to stop leaving the Grimké grounds. Charlotte just asks Handful to put... (full context)
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One day in January, Charlotte is found missing from her cellar sewing room. Missus asks Handful if she knows where Charlotte is, but Handful has no idea. As soon as she... (full context)
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...After Mother leaves, Sarah takes her silver button and drops it in the fire as Handful mournfully watches. (full context)
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Handful. Handful wraps red thread around a tree in the yard to make a spirit tree.... (full context)
Part 2: February 1811 – December 1812
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...Sarah makes up her face while her godchild (and little sister) Nina tries to follow Handful’s instructions on how to braid Sarah’s thin, red hair. At 18, Sarah has been a... (full context)
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Sarah lets Nina pick her dress for the night. Handful helps Sarah gets dressed and Sarah notes the distance that has grown between the two... (full context)
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Handful. Handful and Charlotte begin to sew a story quilt, sitting under the spirit tree. Handful... (full context)
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Charlotte sews figures into the quilt squares, promising to explain the whole story to Handful once the quilt is finished. Handful recognizes some of the scenes, like the night the... (full context)
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Handful tells her mother that Sarah’s thoughts are full of some boy she met at a... (full context)
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...special quilt Charlotte made of all Missus’s children’s old clothing. Charlotte has earned $190, but Handful doesn’t believe that the Grimkés will ever actually let two such wonderful seamstresses go free.... (full context)
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...a note from Burke asking if he may call the next night. Sarah happily tells Handful and Nina the good news, dreaming of marrying Burke. (full context)
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...the house, hearing her parents insult Burke’s background, and runs to her room. Sarah interrupts Handful slowly reading Leonidas and orders Handful to cut a lock of hair for Burke. Handful... (full context)
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...hopes that her hair will be enough to keep Burke interested, comparing this faith to Handful’s trust in the pouch of bark she keeps at her neck. Yet Sarah thinks little... (full context)
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Handful. Handful takes advantage of the Grimkés’ absence to sneak in Master Grimké’s library and find... (full context)
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Handful tells her mother that they need $1,050 for freedom, knowing it would take 10 years... (full context)
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...to spend the day horseback riding with him. Sarah goes to her room and finds Handful taking a bath in the wondrous copper tub. Handful is shocked to be discovered, but... (full context)
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Handful tells Sarah that she didn’t see any harm in bathing in the tub just like... (full context)
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Handful. Handful goes with Charlotte to buy fabric at the market. The market is full of... (full context)
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Denmark Vesey comes out of his house and Charlotte introduces Handful. For the next year, Charlotte goes to Denmark’s house whenever she has the chance. When... (full context)
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The first time Handful waited outside the workshop, she wandered down the street a way, stepping aside for a... (full context)
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...commands Sarah to loosen herself. Sarah does her best to comply, imagining the sight of Handful’s bathwater pouring into the yard. Nina then tells Sarah to repeat “Wicked Willy Wiggle” and... (full context)
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...now marriageable age. Sarah gets fitted for new dresses, the only contact she has with Handful. Handful sings to avoid talking and Sarah is secretly grateful. That January, Sarah overhears her... (full context)
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Handful. Charlotte fusses around the cellar room at night, watching the sky and sewing more of... (full context)
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As Charlotte works on the quilt, Handful thinks about Sarah and Burke, unable to imagine Sarah marrying a man who never respects... (full context)
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Handful. Handful is sorry that Sarah has been hurt so badly, but glad that Burke is... (full context)
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Handful. Earlier that day, Charlotte takes off to town looking happy and clean for her visit... (full context)
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Mid-afternoon, Handful sees Sarah and Nina come back in a carriage driven by Goodis, who gives Handful... (full context)
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...ad in the newspaper for a disappeared slave, but there is no response. Sarah watches Handful pacing circles around the yard without stop every day. Sarah looks at Handful’s grief and... (full context)
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A month after Charlotte disappears, Mother forces Handful to go back to work doing all the sewing. Sarah is forced back into society... (full context)
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...says she thought of it herself, thinking of all the things she has experienced with Handful. (full context)
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Handful. Handful mourns Charlotte’s disappearance but puts aside her grief and anger to get back to... (full context)
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The first square is the stars falling as Handful’s grandmother arrives in America. The second is Handful’s grandmother hoeing the field. Third is Charlotte... (full context)
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Two squares are Charlotte’s one-legged punishment and Handful’s whip lash for learning to read. The last square is Denmark Vesey standing proudly next... (full context)
Part 3: October 1818 – November 1820
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Handful. Six years after Charlotte disappeared, Handful still searches for her every time she goes to... (full context)
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Handful goes to her cellar room and lies on the story quilt, thinking about the way... (full context)
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In January, Handful hears about a new African church in Charleston meant just for black people. Denmark Vesey... (full context)
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Handful. At a meeting of the African Church, Denmark Vesey speaks to a congregation of 200... (full context)
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Handful spends the night in the jail cell, listening to everyone snore and fight while a... (full context)
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At the Work House, Handful and 11 other slaves are led past the Treadmill. Denmark is there, having refused to... (full context)
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Sarah. Sarah comes into the kitchen where Aunt-Sister is tending to Handful’s mangled foot. Sarah starts to cry, guilty that Mother was able to be so cruel... (full context)
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Handful stays in her room for ten days and Sarah stays away for fear that Handful... (full context)
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Handful. Handful must now walk with a cane, but the crutch she has is too tall... (full context)
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Sarah comes down to Handful’s cellar distraught over her imminent departure North with her Father. Sarah’s stutter has returned, and... (full context)
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When Sarah has been gone a week, Handful sneaks out for the first time. She walks to 20 Bull street to see what... (full context)
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At Denmark’s house, Handful asks Denmark’s wife, Susan, if Denmark is home. Denmark comes out and invites Handful in.... (full context)
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Handful. Missus calls Handful in to advise her on the elaborate mourning gown she would like... (full context)
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Handful tries to sneak out the next day, but Tomfry catches her and doesn’t believe that... (full context)
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Denmark tells his lieutenants to step outside and tells Handful the real story of what happened to Charlotte. Denmark tried to hide Charlotte in a... (full context)
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Handful. Missus gathers all the family and slaves to read Master Grimké’s will. The goods are... (full context)
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Handful prays that she won’t be sold, thinking that her mother will return to this house... (full context)
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Missus splits more duties among the remaining slaves, and Handful adds house cleaning to her work. Sarah helps Handful clean the drawing room chandelier and... (full context)
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...to get out of bed, and she stays in her room for the next weeks. Handful brings Sarah trays of food and, one day, a sack of half-burned letters. (full context)
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...a letter to Israel asking more about following the Quaker faith. She gives it to Handful to send. (full context)
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...a small inheritance that would give her enough to live on her own. Sarah remembers Handful telling her that she was enslaved in mind and worries over the silver button. Finally,... (full context)
Part 4: September 1821 – July 1822
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Handful. Handful sneaks to Denmark’s house more than ever now that Tomfry is no longer there... (full context)
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Handful gives Denmark a jar of sorghum she stole from the kitchen and goes to help... (full context)
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Handful asks Denmark what would happen if a white person found a list of names. Denmark... (full context)
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...gossip. In March, Nina finally crosses a line by showing the girls the scar on Handful’s foot from the Work House. The other girls scream, and one even faints. Missus hears... (full context)
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Handful gets busy making a quilt for Denmark to hide his lists, covering the front with... (full context)
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Handful. At Denmark’s house in April, Denmark tells his lieutenants that there are 6,000 names in... (full context)
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As Denmark explains the preparations of arms, Handful fiddles with a feather in her pocket and remembers when Charlotte told her that birds... (full context)
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...gets a letter from Nina detailing how terribly Mother has been acting as well as Handful’s new potentially dangerous sneaking out. Nina ends by saying that she feels alone and helpless... (full context)
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Handful. The night before Handful is set to steal the bullet mold, she has sex with... (full context)
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Handful walks into the Arsenal where the Guard keeps all their supplies and pretends to be... (full context)
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That night, Handful reflects on Denmark’s praise when she gave him the bullet molds. She can’t sleep and... (full context)
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Sarah looks for Handful the next morning and finds her joking with Goodis. Goodis jumps up at the sight... (full context)
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Handful. Handful waits two days after the failed rebellion for safety, then goes to Denmark’s house.... (full context)
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Four days later, Denmark is also arrested. Legends about him fly thick, but Handful realizes that half of what Denmark said about their forces was not true. Sarah finds... (full context)
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On July 2nd, Handful follows Denmark from the Work House as he is taken to his place of execution.... (full context)
Part 5: November 1826 – November 1829
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Handful. In November of 1826, Goodis catches a cold and Handful goes to the stable to... (full context)
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As Charlotte sleeps, Handful asks the slave girl, whose name is Sky, about their journey. Sky loves to talk,... (full context)
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Handful shows Charlotte the story quilt that she finished and Charlotte is pleased that Handful got... (full context)
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...deeper than friendship. One night, Lucretia gives Sarah a letter from “Nina” that is in Handful’s handwriting. The letter explains that Charlotte has returned to the Grimké house with a new... (full context)
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Sarah tries to write Handful a letter, but can’t find a respectful way to express her joy at Charlotte’s return... (full context)
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Handful. Charlotte returns to sewing, but Sky does not fit well into urban life. She is... (full context)
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...bountiful that spring that Missus keeps Sky on for good. Meanwhile, Charlotte does not tell Handful what happened to her while she was away, but begins to sew more squares of... (full context)
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Handful. Handful works on the sewing for Missus while Charlotte sews nothing but her story quilt.... (full context)
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...as she has no ownership papers and the regulations in Charleston are so strict. Still, Handful begs Nina to write Sky a pass, and she takes Sky by the house that... (full context)
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One night, Charlotte asks what happened to her stash of money. Handful thought that Charlotte took it with her, explaining that she looked everywhere but couldn’t find... (full context)
Part 6: July 1835 – June 1838
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Handful. Missus’ eldest daughter, who the slaves call Little Missus, now lives at the Grimké house... (full context)
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...Charlotte shuffles out to the spirit tree with the story quilt wrapped around her shoulders. Handful rushes out to her, and Charlotte tells Handful that she has come to collect her... (full context)
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Handful. Handful writes to Sarah that Charlotte has died. Handful and Sky hold a small funeral... (full context)
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...thinks constantly of her promise to Charlotte, who has now passed, that she would free Handful. (full context)
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Handful. Little Missus sends Handful to get some scotch whiskey, trusting Handful with many errands that... (full context)
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In town, Handful sees a mob burning large bundles of papers. Handful picks up a paper that has... (full context)
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Handful gets ten whip lashes for returning late without the scotch, the first time she has... (full context)
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That afternoon, the mayor comes to see Missus. Handful overhears him tell Missus that Sarah and Angelina will no longer be allowed in Charleston,... (full context)
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Handful. One Sunday in spring, Handful rolls down the quilt frame and checks on the stash... (full context)
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In the wake of Little Missus’ insult of the story quilt, Handful’s hatred of being a slave crystalizes. Handful tells Sky that they are leaving, soon. Handful... (full context)
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...Sarah Mapps interrupts with a letter for Sarah. Sarah is terrified at the news that Handful is planning to run with Sky, imagining all the things that may go wrong. As... (full context)
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Handful. Handful takes her sewing upstairs to watch the boats out in the harbor. She sees... (full context)
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One week later, Handful has an epiphany: she and Sky can use Missus’ old mourning dress to pose as... (full context)
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...residents cannot forgive Sarah for betraying the South. Sarah ignores them and goes to find Handful. (full context)
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Handful is happy to see Sarah, but hopes that Sarah has not come to talk Handful... (full context)
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...for Sarah to leave soon. Sarah promises to leave as long as she can purchase Hetty and Sky to take with her. Mother knows that Sarah means to free them, and... (full context)
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Mary Jr., Sarah’s older sister, joins the fight about Hetty and Sky, asking why Sarah feels the right to attack their way of life. Sarah... (full context)
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Sarah goes down to the cellar room that night and wakes Handful. Sky wakes too, and calls Sarah “the best of the Grimkés,” faint praise to Sarah’s... (full context)
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Handful. The night before they plan to leave, Handful and Sky gather together all the supplies... (full context)
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The next morning, Handful and Sky act as if nothing special is happening. At nine o’clock, Sarah goes to... (full context)
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Sarah bluffs past Missus’ butler and gets Handful and Sky ready in the carriage. Goodis notices Handful underneath the make-up and Handful worries... (full context)
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The boat’s engine starts and pulls away from the gangplank. Sarah holds Handful’s hand as they watch Charleston fade into the distance, and Handful pictures the scene as... (full context)