The Lion's Tale
What does a fictional slave narrative look like without the role of the white savior? Underground’s second season is about to show us.
He too, though, is waiting on John and the law. It’s a dangerous act, and no one understands that more than Ernestine as she now toils the field along the coast of South Carolina.
Gone is her red servant dress, neat hair, and purported role as keeper of the “big house.” Gone, too, is her white savior—the master who fathered two of her children—she killed him. It was an act of retribution for his betrayal; after giving her body, her life, and her dignity none of it could save her eldest sun whose lifeless body swung over the same plantation home she managed in season one. It is these memories she suppresses with opium, sex, and physical violence from her partner. But neither can bar Pearly Mae from returning to Ernestine like her conscience to speak voice to all she’s tried to silence.
“Just kill yourself” Pearly Mae offers as a more dignified option to waiting for someone else to beat her to death. While it may be Ernestine’s way of self-flagellation, Pearly Mae calls it giving up. Ernestine serves as a cautionary tale for those who placed their fate in the hands of white heroes.
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“She pulled in her horizon like a great fish-net. Pulled it from around the waist of the world and draped it over her shoulder. So much of life in its meshes! She called in her soul to come and see” - Zora Neale Hurston, Their Eyes Were Watching God