Roots Summary and Analysis of Chapters 84-100

Kizzy wakes up in a dark cabin when her new master enters. He is drunk and rapes her violently. She passed out and is awakened the next morning by Malizy, the big house cook, who is cleaning her up. She shares that the master's name is Tom Lea and that he has a taste for young black women, including Malizy in the past. Malizy tries to comfort Kizzy but also let her know the harsh reality of her new situation: she is one of five slaves and will be working hard in the fields while bearing her master's rapes for a long time. She tells her that she now lives in Caswell County, North Carolina.

Kizzy becomes pregnant with his child. She gives birth in the winter of 2006, and Tom Lea names the child George. Kizzy's baby brings her closer with the other slaves, including Uncle Pompey and Sister Sarah, both field hands. The last of the five slaves is Uncle Mingo, Tom Lea's chicken trainer for the cockfights they enter.

George begins to grow up, and Kizzy answers his questions about his color and father as best as she can without revealing who his father really is, though she does tell him once in a fit of rage and greatly regrets it after. She passes on her father's heritage: she teaches him the word ko for fiddle, and Kamby Bolongo. Young George becomes a great imitator and comic who brightens their lives.

Soon Uncle Mingo makes George his apprentice chicken man. George spends more and more time working with the chickens, since Tom Lea's main pursuit is cockfighting. After seeing his first cockfight, he was "sad, exultant, frightened; he had never been so excited. And on that crisp morning, a new game cocker had been born" (Chapter 89). Over the years, Mingo and Master Lea teach George everything they know about cockfighting. George begins entering hackfights and grows a winning and successful reputation.

George learns that Tom Lea grew up dirt-poor and after winning a lucky chicken made himself into a moderately successful man through the years. They can have long conversations driving back and forth from cockfights, and Master Lea is often very forthcoming with George, though neither acknowledge their blood connection to each other. When George is twenty, Master Lea begins to ask him about his love life. He gives him traveling passes to go visit girls at night. When George tells him that he has a crush on Matilda, a slave girl at Master MacGregor's plantation, Master Lea says he will buy her to marry George.

Tom and Matilda marry in 1827. He is very drunk at the wedding and embarrasses the family, but Matilda forgives him when she sees he bought her a grandfather clock. Matilda quickly establishes herself as a helpful and welcome part of the family. She is deeply religious and begins prayer meetings every Sunday. Matilda soon becomes pregnant, much to Kizzy's delight, and Kizzy relates their family history of Kunta to her. She names her first son Virgil, after her father she never knew. Matilda and Kizzy grow very close and become like daughter and mother.

Matilda wishes George would spend more time with the family, though she does like the fancy gifts he brings for everyone. Kizzy berates him for his drinking and his affairs. Matilda has another son, Ashford, and then another, George. When Master Lea hears about the Nat Turner revolt, he irately orders the slaves out of their homes and searches them violently. Soon, George has another son, whom Master Lea asks him to name Tom, much to George's delight and the anger of his family. Uncle Mingo begins to ail. Master Lea and George plan to go to New Orleans to cockfight, but a delay in ordering a new wagon means they do not go. Uncle Mingo dies.

George needs a chicken helper. He tries to train Virgil, but the boy has no interest. Matilda has two more sons, James and Lewis. Finally her next child is a girl, and they name her Kizzy. As usual, George repeats the family lore of Kunta Kinte. When Matilda becomes pregnant again, she and Kunta discuss saving his cockfighting money to one day buy their freedom. They figure out the gargantuan sum for them and all their children and Grandma Kizzy. It amounts to $6,800. They plan to save for years and one day set themselves free.

Analysis: More descendants of Kunta Kinte are born in this chapter, and with each birth the family oral tradition is repeated. Haley shows how a tradition is passed on and the remarkable accuracy with which details of Kunta's story are related. The theme of oral traditions becomes like a ritual in this chapter as child after child, nine so far, are born and told the story.

Chicken George's birth shows Kizzy that her life can go on after the devastation of being separated from her family and the horrible source of George's conception. He brings a new happiness to Kizzy and the rest of the plantation. His birth shows that good can be found in every bad situation. Just like Kunta had to learn to do, Kizzy must make a new life for herself, with a new family. The parallels between their stories show that Kizzy can have a happy life; though since Chicken George saw his daughter sold away, her life will not be without its hardships, too.

George's relationship with his father Master Lea is especially curious. Both know and neither acknowledge their relationship, and their closeness due to cockfighting has led them to have more of a relationship than most slaveowners and their slave sons. This changes the concept of what family is, because for the first time white people have become part of Kunta's family.

While Master Lea still treats George like a slave, it is a treatment mixed with encouragement and living vicariously, despite the cruelty of being owned by his own father. Family, a central theme of the book, is changed in this context.

Oral traditions and family heritage receive further focus in this chapter beyond George's birth with the birth of all eight (so far) of George's children. Each birth merits the retelling of the family stories. In this way Haley shows how oral traditions may have been passed down throughout African-American slave families. Though he can never know the exact circumstances of any oral traditions before his own birth, his reconstruction offers a plausible explanation for the conservation of this family's history.