Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Text used: Dell Publishing Co., Inc.
Laurel-Leaf Library  1980
ISBN: 0-440-96132-7

For Wikipedia information on Paula Fox go here.

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Chapter Four: The Bight of Benin

Storage of slaves on a slave ship




to board a ship

to take passage

to flourish (2x)

to scramble (2x)










to shackle

to jettison



to jeer

trade winds

belaying pin



to cheer

to clamber



to barter

to duck





to totter


to yank


to lament

a measure







British Warship
  1. How will the slave ship The Moonlight  protect itself against American and British warships? Why is the crew of The Moonlight  more afraid of the British than of the Americans?
  2. List the arguments Purvis uses to defend the Slave Trade. Comment on the validity of his statements.
  3. When they reach the Bight of Benin, they find the Barracoon on fire. What had happened and why did the British do it?
  4. Why is Jessie so afraid of fire? What has Hell to do with it?
  5. Do you think Smith is correct when he says that the American warships are there to protect us against any abuse by the damned English!" (p.49) Explain your answer.
  6. Why is Jessie afraid of an uprising by the black slaves aboard ship?
  7. Why does Jessie experience a "feeling a shame I'd never felt before? (p. 51 )
  8. "Don't say such things!" Purvis bellowed at Jessie. (p. 53) What had Jessie said that made Purvis so upset? Why did Purvis become so angry at Jessie?
  9. Why does Purvis compare the Slave Trade with the Atlantic crossing of his own Irish parents? Do you think that his comparison is valid? Explain.
  10. In your own words describe in a paragraph what Jessie sees when the first slaves finally arrive on board.
  11. How does Gardere explain the fact that one of the black slaves was forced to drink rum? Do you agree or do you have another explanation?
  12. What happens to the little girl who climbed on board first? What other, maybe important dent happens right after the final incident with the girl?
  13. Why does the author end the chapter with the sentences: "I had believed that half this journey was over. But now, it seemed, it was at its true beginning."?

Speaking Out

In the story, the Captain punishes Purvis without any verdict. A verdict is a "formal decision of jury at the close of a trial". Verdict comes from the Latin words vere meaning "truly", and dictum, meaning "a thing said." The ten words below are derived from . Can you use them correctly in the following sentences?











  1. Without reading the whole book, you have yet no way of how _____ the story will end. (foretelling)
  2. It seems that Purvis always _____ what Jessie says. (asserts the opposite)
  3. "Let me _____ the names of the slaves to you, before we get too drunk," said the cabociero to the Captain. (speak or read aloud for someone else to write down)
  4. Jessie had no of _____ how the slaves would react to captivity on board The Moonlight .(sign)
  5. We can be quite sure that Jessie will feel _____ by the end of the story. (cleared from blame)
  6. The Captain would never _____ his position. (formally give up a high position)
  7. Purvis claimed that the British had no _____ on board The Moonlight .(authority by law)
  8. The Captain issued an _____ that all men aboard ship should carry weapons. (order issued by an authority)
  9. Purvis' _____ wasn't very good. (manner of speaking or choosing words)
  10. The Captain was extremely _____. (overbearing, domineering)


Mood is the emotional response a reader has to an author's creation. Mood can help involve readers in a a work and convey an author's own feeling about a subject


Answer the following questions about mood and mood-revealing details. Refer to the book for evidence about details.

1. a. What is the main mood of the chapter?

- thrilling and illuminating

- humorous and lighthearted

- bleak and depressing

For each of the following categories, list details that helps create the mood.

b. Smith's and Purvis' behaviour. Example: The two men danced in the small space, circling each other like two dreaming bears, their faces as serious as though they were reading from the Bible (p. 47)

c. Purvis' words. Example:

d. Purvis beliefs. Example:

e. Jessie's comparisons. Example:

2. For each of the following phrases, explain how they set the mood.

a. the horror of fire (p.48)

b. and slowly peel and eat an orange! (p.50)

c. ghostly white crests (p.53)

d. the cold dead clang of metal striking wood (p.55)

e. his fingers gripping one brown ankle ((p.59))

3. For each of the following categories, list a detail that helps create the mood.

a the weather

b the ocean

c the ship


On step further

Imagine that you are a script writer for the movies assigned to film one of the scenes below Select the scene you would like to write, then jot down the mood you would choose for the scene.

a. boyfriend and girlfriend reuniting after being separated for a year

b. recent immigrant having lunch in the school cafeteria for the first time

c. player trying to make a last-minute touchdown, goal, or basket d. a teenager confessing that he or she wrecked the family car

After you have selected the mood, make a list of at least four specific details to include in the scene that will help communicate the mood you chose.

A World of Differences

The Slave Dancer  is told from Jessie's viewpoint But his faithful record of his conversations with others give the reader different views on the same subject. The inclusion of these different views serves two important purposes. First, it allows the reader to get a clearer picture of other characters and perspectives. Second, the views serve as a force of change. Beings exposed to other thoughts help Jessie mature from a naive boy into a mature young man.


Determine what the characters listed feel about each of the following topics. You may use quotes, paraphrases, or inferences (logical conclusions) in your responses.

1. slavery

a. Jessie

b. Purvis

c. Smith

2. being on board a slave ship

a. Jessie

b. Purvis

c. Captain Cawthorne

3. the voyage of Purvis parents

a. Jessie

b. Purvis

One Step Further

Pick one of the previous topics. Decide what you feel is the most sensible view of that topic. This view may be held by one of the characters or it may be your own, different view. Then write a persuasive paragraph defending your viewpoint.

Chapter 1 - Chapter 2 - Chapter 3 - Chapter 4 - Chapter 5 - Chapter 6 - Chapter 7 - Chapter 8 - Chapter 9