Chapter 11 returns to Florens’s perspective. She is walking alone through the night away from the Blacksmith’s house to the Vaarks’ farm. The trip is difficult without Jacob’s boots. Florens thinks that after losing the Blacksmith she will be more guarded against people who would take her in only to throw her away again. Florens wonders if the Blacksmith is afraid of her.
Following her rejection by the Blacksmith, Florens’s naiveté has disappeared and been replaced by wariness. She is now guarded against the idea of romantic love as security, instead believing that she would be abandoned by any other lover who would come her way.
Florens thinks of how, after the Blacksmith rejected her, she tried to strike him with a hammer before he wrestled it away from her. Florens then tried to bite him, while Malaik screamed. Florens grabbed the tongs the Blacksmith uses to work metal and swung them at him, making him bleed. Florens then ran away, shoeless.
In retaliation for the Blacksmith’s rejection and his nasty words about her acting like a slave, Florens attacks the Blacksmith, arguably proving true his accusations of her lack of control over herself.
It has been three months since Florens ran away from the Blacksmith. Still, she keeps picturing their violent final encounter. At night Florens leaves Lina asleep to go into Jacob’s mansion and scratch words into the wood of one room. Florens, still addressing the Blacksmith, says that if he is still alive or ever heals he will have to bend down to read what Florens has written, scratching away the wood with a nail (it is unlikely the Blacksmith will come back; Florens seems to harbor this delusion because she still is in love with him). Florens does not cry as she writes until the lamp burns down and she falls asleep.
Florens has deluded herself into believing that the Blacksmith will return to read what she is writing at night on the walls of Jacob’s abandoned house, despite the fact that he has no reason to do so. Also, Florens’s nighttime trips to the abandoned mansion explain what Willard and Scully were seeing in the window— it is not Jacob’s ghost, but rather Florens’s silhouette as she writes.
During the day, Florens does chores that she thinks are nonsensical, like cleaning the chamber pot they never use. They adjust the graves in the meadow again and again and clean the spot where Jacob died, though no one uses the house. As Florens cleans, she is cold, and thinks that Rebekka has forgotten how cold the outhouses are in winter and what that cold could do to an infant like Sorrow’s.
Florens describes more of Rebekka’s strange behavior following Jacob’s death and her religious conversion. Rebekka’s demands that they clean the spot where Jacob died over and over again reflect her anxiety in the wake of his death.
Florens thinks that although Rebekka was cured of her disease, she is still not well. Rebekka attends church and returns to the farm with a blank look in her eyes. She wears dark clothes and prays constantly. She also forces the servants to sleep in the cowshed no matter the weather, saying that sleeping outside in hammocks is for “savages.” On one very cold night Sorrow seeks shelter for herself and her baby in the house and Rebekka slaps her. Florens thinks that if Rebekka knew she were in the house every night scratching her writing into the wood she would whip her. Florens blames Rebekka, not the church, for Rebekka’s new and harsh behavior.
Florens’s descriptions of Rebekka’s blank look after attending church suggest that Rebekka is being brainwashed in some way. While she formerly accepted Lina’s native customs, she now sees sleeping in hammocks as “savage.” Meanwhile Rebekka’s behavior is actually becoming more “savage,” as she slaps Sorrow for protecting her baby. Florens sees Rebekka’s change as a personal fault rather than blaming the church, suggesting that Florens believes cruelty is not implicit in religion.
Florens learns from Scully and Willard that Rebekka is going to sell her but keep Lina. Meanwhile, no one will take Sorrow and her baby. Florens admires Sorrow’s devotion to her child. Sorrow has changed her name and plans to escape. Florens is appalled by how Rebekka treats Lina, making her walk with her to church then forcing her to wait by the side of the road. Their former friendship has deteriorated.
Sorrow’s change following her child’s birth continues to make her seek out a better life, as indicated when Sorrow, who was previously so co-dependent, decides to strike out alone. Meanwhile, Rebekka and Lina’s friendship dissolves in the face of Rebekka’s change of belief.
Florens thinks of how Lina tried to warn her about the Blacksmith. She thinks again of a time the Blacksmith told her that slaves are freer than free men, because true enslavement is when something inside you withers and leaves behind a kind of wildness. Florens thinks that she withered in the Widow Ealing’s closet when the villagers examined her. Still, Florens learned from Jane to continue risking punishment for good reasons despite danger.
As Florens analyzes the Blacksmith’s understanding of slavery, she understands what he means about “withering,” since the invasive and dehumanizing experience she had at Widow Ealing’s house made her feel that way. Still, Florens does not feel that she has entirely given in to the feeling.
Florens has covered the entire room with the writing she has scratched in the wood. Although her arm aches, she keeps carving. Florens realizes that the Blacksmith will never read her words, since he cannot read. She hopes he will learn. She thinks that if he does not read them, no one will. Florens thinks about burning the house so that the words fly up in the air in ash.
As Florens writes, it becomes clear that she desires for someone to hear out her story, or at least that she feels a need to tell it. Her desire to burn the word-covered house seems to suggest that, if the house represents the institution of slavery, Florens would like to destroy the whole thing to expunge her past and start over new.
Florens thinks that the Blacksmith is correct, and there is something wild in her, but that she is also still Florens. Florens thinks she is a slave, but still free. Florens says she still has one big sadness: that she cannot communicate with her mother. She thinks that her feet are finally hard and callused like her mother wanted.