Shelves: historical-fiction , plantation-porn , eras-antebellum , slavery-and-indenture , exploitation-pulp-sleaze , wusses-need-not-apply , characters-you-love-to-hate , falconhurst , dead-tree This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here. There has to be more to it, right? The story takes place over the course of a few years in the s, in rural Alabama on the slave-breeding plantation of Falconhurst. The rest of the page hardcover chimney block is the ins and outs of daily life of owners and slaves in all its meandering, unremarkable glory.
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At age 40 he adopted a year-old college student, Philip, who had lost his own parents. Philip eventually married a woman named Vicky and the two remained close to Onstott for the rest of his life. Onstott dedicated Mandingo to Philip and Vicky. It was pages long and sold around 2. Subsequent paperback editions whittled the novel down to pages. Warren Maxwell is the elderly and infirm owner of Falconhurst and he lives there with his year-old son, Hammond.
Falconhurst is a slave breeding plantation where slaves are encouraged to mate and produce children "suckers". Because of the nature of the plantation, the slaves are well fed, not overworked, and rarely punished in a brutal manner. However, the slaves are treated as animals to be used as the Maxwells wish.
Warren Maxwell, for example, sleeps with his feet against a naked slave to drain his rheumatism. Although Hammond keeps a "bed-wench" for sexual satisfaction, his father wishes him to marry and produce a pure white heir.
Hammond is skeptical and is not sexually attracted to white women. Later, Hammond reveals his love for Ellen, despite his intentions to wed Blanche. It turns out that Mede and Big Pearl are brother and sister, but no one shows concern over the incestuous act.
Charles and Hammond take Mede to a bar to fight with other slaves. Hammond plans to use his winnings to buy a diamond ring for Blanche.
Mede is clearly an extremely strong and powerful man. Hammond sets off with his "body nigger", Omega Meg to the Crowfoot plantation to wed Blanche. Despite the confusion, the Major consents to let Blanche and Hammond marry. Hammond believes that Blanche is not a virgin. Although she denies having previous sex partners, it turns out that Blanche lost her virginity to her brother, Charles, at age She does not reveal this fact to Hammond.
After a few months at Falconhurst, Blanche is bored and dissatisfied. Soon, Blanche is also pregnant. Hammond and Warren take Mede to another slave fight, where Mede is nearly beaten by a stronger slave, Topaz, but ends up killing Topaz by biting through his jugular vein. Later, Hammond travels again, this time to Natchez, Mississippi to sell a coffle of slaves. When Blanche reveals her fear that Hammond will sleep around with "white whores", Hammond bluntly states, "White ladies make me puke.
Ellen miscarries and it is unclear whether her miscarriage is caused by the whipping. While in Mississippi, Hammond sells one of his male slaves to a German woman, who obviously wants the slave for sex. When the other men in the group explain this to Hammond, he is physically repulsed and denies that a white woman would ever willingly sleep with a black slave.
Blanche has her baby, a girl, Sophy. When Hammond travels to an estate auction and secretly takes Ellen along, Blanche becomes apoplectic. She orders Mede to come to her room and have sex with her. This is a particularly poignant act of retaliation against Hammond because he bought an identical pair of earrings for Ellen.
She realizes it is too late to accuse Mede of rape. In the final chapter of the book she gives birth and the child is dark-skinned and looks like Mede. When Hammond finds out, he calmly asks the doctor for some poison, mixes it in a hot toddy, and gives it to Blanche, killing her. He then boils water in a giant kettle and forces Mede to get in.
When Mede resists, he uses a pitchfork to stab the slave to death and then orders the other slaves to keep the fire going, thus turning Mede into a soup. Themes in Mandingo Slave breeding In Slave Breeding: Sex, Violence, and Memory in African American History, Gregory Smithers traces the history of coercive reproductive and sexual practices in the Antebellum South, as well as reactions and denials of the practice of slave breeding by historians throughout the twentieth century.
Smithers goes into great detail about Mandingo, a novel that is explicitly about slave breeding. In the novel, Warren Maxwell, owner of the Falconhurst plantation, reiterates time and again that cotton is not a reliable crop and the real money is in breeding "niggers".
Over the course of the novel, four female slaves give birth and another miscarries , and in each instance the Maxwells give the slaves a dollar and a new dress. The Maxwells, particularly the elder Warren, wax poetic about slave breeding, arguing that while slaves with white or "human" as the Maxwells put it in the novel blood are smarter and better looking, purebred Mandingos are among the strongest and most submissive slaves.
While Hammond Maxwell is more interested in satisfying his own sexual appetites and preparing his prize slave, Mede, for fights, Warren Maxwell spends much time planning how to mate various slaves to produce the best "suckers". There is much discussion over the virility of male slaves, such as when the cook, Lucretia Borgia , and Warren Maxwell have a discussion about who the father of her baby is: "So that Napoleon boy I give you had a nigger in him after all?
That squirt no good. In addition to keeping a "bed wench" at home, when Hammond Maxwell travels to various locations, his hosts usually offer a slave to sleep with along with dinner and a bed. When he visits the Woodfords and meets his future wife, Blanche, Hammond shares a bed with Charles Woodford and is given a slave to have sex with. Wilson, gives Hammond a slave, Ellen, to sleep with.
The white men in Mandingo take for granted their entitlement to sleep with female slaves, and offering a "bed wench" to a male guest is part of the code of southern hospitality. However, there are limits to the actions and feelings that are acceptable between black women and white men.
As pointed out above, Hammond is shocked when he sees Charles and Katy kiss on the lips: "It was disgust, bordering upon nausea, that a white man should assume an amatory equality with a Negro wench. It was beneath the dignity of his race — somehow bestial. But unlike a white man having sex with a black woman, a white woman voluntarily having sex with a black man is so beyond the parameters of acceptable behavior, it can only be punished by death.
Sexual relations between white women and black men The cultural taboo of white women having sex with black male slaves in Mandingo is filtered through the mind and experiences of Hammond Maxwell. The issue is not brought up until chapter 35, when Hammond sells a male slave to a German woman. The men Hammond is with understand and are amused by the fact that the woman is obviously buying the slave for sex.
You wrong. After Blanche sleeps with Mede, she pierces his ears with the earrings Hammond got for her of which there was an identical pair for Ellen as a way to "mark" Mede as hers and also retaliate at Hammond. That his wife, a white woman, should have willing carnal commerce with a Negro Although he certainly does not announce his intentions, both the doctor and his father know he is going to murder Blanche and neither one stops him because "who could blame the young husband?
Bargainnier explains, "These unattractive representations of southern white women as sexually insatiable and totally unfaithful Smithers writes that "Two of the most enduring fictions to emerge in Lost Cause mythology were the trope of the chivalrous white southern male and the dutiful and asexual white woman.
Critical reactions Although Mandingo was a national and international best-seller, selling 5 million copies nationwide,  critical opinions about the novel were — and continue to be — mixed. While black novelist Richard Wright praised Mandingo as "a remarkable book based on slave period documents",  other critics have deemed the book sensationalist and offensive. Van Deburg writes that "None of the three contributors to the [Falconhurst] series could be considered knowledgeable about the black experience"  and argued that "The Falconhurst novels reveled in white sexual exploitation of black slaves.
However, Paul Talbot points out that some contemporary reviews accepted the novel as shocking, yet truthful. It is just about the most sensational, yet the truest book I have ever read