My Contraband And Brothers By Alcott
Of all the atrocities, man has endured; none has caused more misery and
destruction to the soul than human bondage, also identified as slavery. It is
illustrated in Louisa May Alcottís story: "My Contraband," originally
published "The Brothers." The Civil War was fought over slavery. It pitted
brother against brother, but this did not kill these brothers, it was the deep
and festering hatred they had for each other that sent them to their early
graves. The story these individuals create is complex and depressing; the main
character, Robert is a contraband (a slave who has come to the North to seek
freedom). Instead of finding freedom, he finds his half brother Ned and his wife

Lucy. After the death of his master, Robert arrives from the South to freedom in
the North to work in a hospital caring for wounded men of the war. His
assignment is to help Miss Dane, a nurse, tend to a dying Rebel. Miss Dane
appears to be the narrator in the story She is aware of Robertís troubled
existence and observes despair from the moment their encounter. Upon their first
meeting, she sensed sadness from deep within him she remarked, "I had seen
colored people in what they call "the black sulks" when, for days, they
neither smiled nor spoke, and scarcely ate. But, this was something more than
that" (528). Miss Dane appears to be a compassionate person; nursing comes
easy to her and she lacks intolerance regarding Robertís color. She had wanted"to know and comfort him; and following the impulse of the moment I went in
and touched him on the shoulder"(529). This is an example of her compassionate
view of the contraband. She believed that "black boys are far more faithful
and handy than some of the white scamps" (528). Robert is content to stay with
the rebel even though he has typhoid. When Miss Dane informs Robert that since
he himself has never contracted this disease, he may become infected with it, he
states, "It donít matter, Missis. Iíd rather be up here with the fever
than down with those niggers; and there isnít no other place for me." (530).

For seven days, Miss Dane nursed the Rebel and for these seven days, he did
regain consciousness. At times his presence could not be felt, until in his
feverish state he begins to ramble on. At times his rambling would be incoherent
other times she would be able to understand what he was saying. On this night
the Doctor is skeptical about his survival he instructs her to "Give him water
as long as he can drink, and if he drops into a natural sleep, it may save
him...Nothing but sleep or a miracle will keep him now..." (531). At that
moment the Rebel called out for "Lucy" (531). Miss Dane felt "some new
terror seemed to have gifted him with momentary strength" (531). She went to
his side exclaiming, "Yes, hereís Lucy" (531) this agitated the Rebel even
further. It was evident when "His dull eye fixed upon me, dilating with a
bewildered look he broke out fiercely Thatís a lie sheís dead, and soís

Bob, damn him" (531). Miss Dane dozed off, she awoke with a shock as she
sprang up she felt "A strong hand put me back into my seat and held me
there" (532). It was Robert, he stood there his "eyes full of sombre
fire;" (532). Miss Dane was confused and stunned by these events. Robert was
calm and told her "Sit still, Missus; I woní hurt yer...but you waked up to
soon (533). She "saw murder in his eyes" (533) and began to plead with

Robert. She questioned him "Why do you hate him? He is not your master"
(533). Robertís reply, "Heís my brother" (533), astonished her. Even
though she was trying to grasp this information, her mind was attempting to
derive a plan to hang on to her life and the Rebels. Again, she pleaded with

Robert only this time not for an explanation. She feared for her life and for
the Rebels but seeing Roberts mind was full of revenge and hatred, she needed to
know why. She pressed Robert further until he agreed; he had been waiting to
kill the Rebel until he found out about Lucy. Miss Dane questioned, "Whoís

Lucy" (534), his reply "My wife- he took her" (534) only incited her
curiosity further. She persuaded him to tell her his life. Ned is his
half-brother whom Robert declares "He