Within The Book of Negroes can be found many archetypes. If you were to read this book from an archetypal point of view, I doubt you would find it difficult to find characters related to certain archetypes.
For example, it is obvious that Aminata is the hero of the story and follows a hero’s journey. She falls into a category known as initiation, which means that she suffers numerous ordeals in order to make the transformation from innocence to maturity. Before she crossed the water, Aminata lost her parents, her clothes, her freedom, and her dignity among other things. During the crossing she suffered more as she witnessed firsthand murder, rape, and many other brutalities. Once she made it to land – near death – she suffered yet more; she was beaten, raped, humiliated, her newborn baby was sold, her husband was transferred and unable to see her, as well as countless other nightmarish tragedies. Throughout these trials Aminata undergoes a change of character. She starts out young and innocent, adamant that she has a right to be freed from her captives because she was a “freeborn Muslim” (Hill 25). By the time she gets to the boat, she still does not understand why she has been taken. “I was not supposed to be stolen,” (Hill 65) she exclaims, as she is still naïve and not able to comprehend what it happening. However, as her journey continues, she commits herself to learning as much as she possibly can and begins to understand and realize why she was taken. By about the middle of the book she has a lot more understanding and has learned more than any other slave could hope to learn, but she still does not quite understand the ways of white people. Nevertheless, it is easy to see Aminata’s progress and see how she fits into the initiation role of the hero.
Moving on to other characters, I have noticed that Georgia closely resembles the archetypal woman, the Good Mother. She cares for and protects Aminata to the best of her abilities, she teaches her many things about healing and midwifery, and Aminata often describes her as “a warm body [that] slept beside [her]” (Hill 126) and says that she “liked the smell of the woman and felt reassured by her snoring” (Hill 126). This definitely corresponds to the Good Mother in archetypal theory, whose character is often associated with life, warmth, protection, and nourishment.
One more character that reminds me of an archetype is Fomba. Fomba is the Outcast because he is treated differently in the village of Bayo and even when he is a slave he has to be sent off alone to do work because of his differences. He is often mocked or thought of as lesser because his mind is broken and slow.
Another symbol I would like to point out is the moons on Aminata’s cheeks. They are symbols of her faith, but in archetypal theory crescent moons represent change and transition. This makes sense in the story because Aminata certainly goes through a lot of change and transitions as she goes from being free and young to older, more mature, and enslaved.
Reading The Book of Negroes from an archetypal standpoint can bring more meaning to the text and help you to see the meaning in symbols used that you might miss out on if you were to use another theory. At any rate, archetypal theory symbols are quite present throughout the novel and can offer more insight into the novel’s true meaning.
Hill, Lawrence. The Book of Negroes. Toronto: HarperCollins, 2007. Print.