Sacred Hunger Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 60 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Sacred Hunger.
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Sacred Hunger Summary & Study Guide Description

Sacred Hunger Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Topics for Discussion and a Free Quiz on Sacred Hunger by Barry Unsworth.

This story takes place in the 18th century at the beginning of the African slave trade and follows the lives of those involved and aboard the slave ship, the Liverpool Merchant. She is built by William Kemp in the hopes that she, and the slaves aboard her, will help to erase his large debts. The Liverpool Merchant survives many ordeals, but when she blows off course filled with many ill slaves and crew members, mutiny occurs and she is landed in the swamps of southern Florida. Eventually she and her crew and slaves are found by William Kemp's son, Erasmus, but by this time the lives of all involved have been changed forever.

There are two main plots in this story; one plot follows Erasmus Kemp's life and the other follows the life of Erasmus' cousin, Matthew Paris. Erasmus is a determined and serious young man who falls in love with Sarah Wolpert and the idea of wealth. At the same time, he carries hatred for his cousin, Paris, for something Paris had done when they were children. Erasmus' father has the slave ship Liverpool Merchant built and purchases slaves in Africa who are later sold in Kingston Market to pay large debts he has incurred, unknown to his family. Most of Erasmus' story in the first book revolves around his feelings for Sarah Wolpert and their developing relationship. Unfortunately for the relationship and Erasmus' fairly peaceful and prosperous life, his father commits suicide and William Kemp's debts are made public knowledge. Erasmus refuses Mr. Wolpert's offer of work, his engagement to Sarah is ended, and he decides to rebuild the Kemp wealth and prestige; he blames the slave ship, and subsequently his cousin, for his father's death.

In Book 2, Erasmus learns of the Liverpool Merchant's location and the possibility of a settlement. He organizes an expedition to find the ship and her crew and cargo. At the end of the book, Erasmus has captured the crew, slaves, and most importantly his cousin. His story ends very bittersweetly; he has accomplished what he set out to do, but he realizes too late that his hatred for his cousin was unfounded and based on emotions and perceptions of himself as a child.

Paris' story begins when he is let out of prison and asked to be the surgeon aboard his uncle's ship, the Liverpool Merchant. His wife has died, and he believes his life is worthless, so he accepts. Life on the slave ship deteriorates until finally Paris, in a fit of rage seeing slaves being thrown overboard, begins a mutiny. The captain is killed and the crew and slaves hide the ship in the swamp lands of southern Florida. They build a settlement in which whites and blacks live in equality and peace; this peace begins to come to an end after twelve years when groups within the community form and individuals begin to use each other to serve their own needs. Before the fate of the settlement can be realized, Erasmus and his soldiers capture or kill these settlers. Paris dies and the story ends with the crew and slaves headed to St. Augustine. The book ends, as it begins, with a beggar known as the Paradise Nigger, who is Paris' son. He constantly talks about the paradise in which he was born; a place where black and whites lived in peace and equality.

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This section contains 569 words
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