Middle Passage Book Summary and Study Guide

Detailed plot synopsis reviews of Middle Passage

This story follows Rutherford Calhoun on an adventure across the sea as a stowaway. When Rutherford Calhoun arrives in New Orleans from Illinois, he finds himself in a bind. Having existed as a thief for so long, it should not be a surprise when his debts come do. His girlfriend Isadora wants to be married at any cost and manages to involve a powerful gangster by the name of Papa to interceded on her behalf by purchasing Rutherford's debts and forcing him to marry her in exchange for it. The problem is Rutherford will do anything to avoid marrying Isadora including, stowing away on a ship setting to sail to Africa. And not just any ship, a slave ship, which he learns after the ship has left port.
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Despite being a stowaway and a thief, Rutherford finds himself endeared to the crew, who are mostly poor immigrants who've also face hardships in life. The Captain, a man about whom Rutherford has heard many legends told, is a pitiable character and Rutherford even manages to find something redeeming about him. By the time the ship reaches Africa and ports at a country by the name of Senegambia, the crew has decided to move forward with a mutiny they've planned. However, these plans come to a halt when the cargo, a highly evolved tribe of Allmuseri being brought back to New Orleans as slaves, seize the ship and re-route it back to Africa. In the process, the captain commits suicide, many others die and become food for the living. When the ship finally sinks and Rutherford is one of only a few survivors he must face one of the ship owners who turns out to be a man by the name of Papa who has beef with Calhoun from New Orleans. Having survived a mutiny and shipwreck, Rutherford is thrown back into the belly of the beast when he must answer for what happened on the last passage which is not something he is prepared to do.
Best part of story, including ending: I loved this story because it was so witty and laugh out loud funny. Calhoun's insights were sharp and unexpected at times.

Best scene in story: My favorite scene is when Rutherford is recognized by Santos and called out as a thief. This scene is hysterical and I even read it aloud to hear the over-the-top dialogue come to life. It was wonderful.

Opinion about the main character: I loved Calhoun's way of being duplicitous. He was loved by everyone, even the ones that hated him at first ended up loving him in the end. He had charisma and an intelligence that leapt off the page.

The review of this Book prepared by Literary Doll a Level 1 Blue Jay scholar

Chapter Analysis of Middle Passage

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Plot & Themes

Tone of book?    -   humorous Time/era of story    -   1600-1899 Is this an adult or child's book?    -   Adult or Young Adult Book Exploring into the wild    -   Yes kind of story    -   water adventure

Main Character

Gender    -   Male Profession/status:    -   thief/con artist Age:    -   20's-30's Ethnicity/Nationality    -   Black (American) Unusual characteristics:    -   Genius


How much descriptions of surroundings?    -   10 () United States    -   Yes The US:    -   Deep South City?    -   Yes City:    -   New Orleans

Writing Style

Sex in book?    -   Yes What kind of sex:    -   vague references only Amount of dialog    -   roughly even amounts of descript and dialog

Books with storylines, themes & endings like Middle Passage

Charles H. Johnson, Jr. Books Note: the views expressed here are only those of the reviewer(s).
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