Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Roxy as the Sambo?

Roxy is a complicated character  to say the least.  She appears to be white physically but is a slave.  She buys into and believes the white aristocratic ideals yet, those very ideals keep her enslaved. She played the part of a sambo slave, which in itself is a very contradictory stereotype.  She physically acted submissive and content, yet mentally thought the opposite.  Roxy has so many different clashing characteristics, which lead me to believe in some way, she is playing the part of the Sambo slave.  In the first blog, I briefly mentioned what a sambo slave is like.  This stereotypical slave appears to be submissive, childlike, ignorant, happy, and content, with their station in life- slavery.  However, underneath the act, the sambo is cunning, smart, and manipulative, like Roxy.

On the surface, Roxy appears to be content and plays the part of the submissive sambo perfectly- "she began to long to see him.  She would fawn upon him, slave-like-for this would have to be her attitude of course-..." (page 101)  She knew how to get by with the white folk, to be undetected of her intelligence and manipulation.  She had to act the part of the sambo type of slave to get what she wanted, which is what most other cases of sambo slaves did, they played the part of contentment and submissiveness to achieve their goals, whether it be ultimate freedom, white masters' trust, or less severe physical labor/ punishment.  Roxy manipulated the imposter Tom, her son, to get money and survive.  She threatened him with his exposure of the one thirty-first drop of "nigger" blood (Chapter 8,15); thus showing her intelligence and cunning.

However, in the end, Roxy is too complex for just one stereotype, she goes beyond the bounds of just the sambo.  She is a strong- willed and intelligent woman.  She is a product of her atmosphere.  Roxy defies the ideal of a 19th century woman, her character breaks some of those stereotypical social norms.  She is as independent as she can be in a slave society, she plays a hoax on everyone in Dawson's Landing, and she is openly intelligent. 


  1. I totally agree with you. I think that Roxy pretends to be weak, and uses the cover of stereotypes so that she can get things accomplished and just live her life. As you mentioned, she's great at manipulation (maybe even blackmail) and can use it to get what she wants. She's one of the smartest characters in the book, and definitely one of Twain's most powerful female characters.

  2. I agree that Roxy plays the role of sambo slave very well, and that she is also very good a deceiving the town to think that she isn't as intelligent as she really is. I think that you make a great point about Roxy being too complex to fit just one stereotype by the end of the novel.