Sharon Draper

Copper Sun

  • 39-page comprehensive study guide
  • Features 42 chapter summaries and 6 sections of expert analysis
  • Written by a high school English teacher with over 10 years of experience
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Copper Sun Summary and Study Guide

SuperSummary, a modern alternative to SparkNotes and CliffsNotes, offers high-quality study guides for challenging works of literature. This 50-page guide for “Copper Sun” by Sharon Draper includes detailed chapter summaries and analysis covering 42 chapters, as well as several more in-depth sections of expert-written literary analysis. Featured content includes commentary on major characters, 25 important quotes, essay topics, and key themes like The Nature of Evil and Engaging With Other Perspectives and the Subsequent Growth in Empathy.

Plot Summary

Copper Sun is a historical fiction novel about fifteen-year-old Amari, a young woman from Ziavi, Ghana. Amari loves her community (the Ewe people), her family, and her soon-to-be husband, Besa. One day, unannounced, a group of pale-faced strangers arrive, led there by a neighbouring tribe, the Ashanti. Amari’s people prepare a celebration to welcome the guests,not knowing the grave danger they will soon face. After a meal, gift exchange, storytelling, and dancing, the white men open fire on the community. Amari watches as her parents are murdered. She runs into the jungle with her little brother, Kwasi, but he is speared and killed. She is then shackled and chained to fellow surviving villagers.

The next day begins a brutal, deathly march to Cape Coast where the prisoners cannot eat, drink or rest. People die every day on the walk and are merely left on the side of the path. Once the Africans and their captors reach Cape Coast, the slaves are locked in a large building. Here is where Amari meets Afi; Afi becomes a motherly mentor to Amari during the harrowing journey across the ocean. While at Cape Coast, the women are humiliated, inspected by strangers, and branded like cattle. Soon they are transported by small boat to a large ship.

On the “ship of death,” the men are “stacked,” still chained, beside and on top of each other on slats in the bottom of the ship. The women do not have to be stacked but are still enclosed in a separate area in the bottom of the ship. Both areas are filthy with human waste, and there is very little fresh air. Eventually the slaves are brought to the upper level of the ship where they are splashed with cold water, given little food, and then ordered to dance. At nighttime, the women are taken by the sailors and raped. On the first night, Amari is spared when she is taken by a kindly, red-haired sailor who takes her below the ship and rather than raping her, gives her food and water and teaches her English words. The next evening, she isn’t so lucky and is brutally raped. Throughout it all, Amari clings to the words of Afi, who, even though she speaks the brutal truth, also gives Amari words of comfort and hope, focusing on Amari’s strength.

After several months, the ship finally docks at Sullivan’s Island. Once the “cargo”has been approved by another stranger, they are taken off the ship and put into another holding building. Their host tells the slaves that they will remain in the hold for ten days to make sure they are free of disease and will then be sold to the highest bidder.

At the slave auction the narration shifts to Polly, a white indentured and orphaned girl who watches the proceedings with disgust. She hates Negroes and can’t bear to hear Amari scream when she is separated from Afi. Amari is sold to Mr. Percival Derby of Derbyshire Farms, at the price of sixty pounds, as a birthday present for his son, Clay. Polly, herself, was to work for Mr. Derby to repay her indenture over a period of fourteen years. She has hopes to be a high-society mistress someday, and so her goal is to work in the house for Mr. Derby to learn the ways of the rich.

However, once they arrive at Derbyshire farms, she is given the responsibility of teaching Amari. Polly is resentful of being forced to live with and work alongside the slaves. Despite her prejudice, she is still disturbed at the attitudes of Clay and Percival Derby towards the slaves. Shortly after their arrival, Polly and Amari meet Teenie (the plantation’s cook) and her son Tidbit. Over a meal, Polly reveals her troubled past with her parents’poverty and deaths.

After about three months, Amari adjusts to the life of Derbyshire farms, including her sexual “duties”with Clay Derby. It disgusts her, and she is deeply ashamed, but in order to survive, she knows she has to submit to the will of her “owners.” Isabelle Derby, Percival’s new wife, is gentle and compassionate with Amari and the other slaves. She is very young and is expecting her first child with Mr. Derby.

Amari learns that she will eventually be on rice field duty, which is difficult, deadly work for most slaves. One evening, two of the house maids are absent from the house as one of the women from the fields becomes very sick. Polly sees this as an opportunity to make herself useful in the house, so she and Amari stand in at dinner service that evening. Things are going well until Amari trips over Mr. Derby’s legs and drops pie all over the floor. She is whipped severely, into unconsciousness, until Mrs. Derby steps in to stop it. For several days, Amari sleeps while she heals and gets her strength back. She and Polly are then called to look after Isabelle as the baby is coming, and Mr. Derby goes to another plantation for help. Isabelle gives birth to a beautiful, black, baby girl. Despite trying to lie and hide the baby from Percival, he eventually learns the truth:  Isabelle is in love with Noah, the house’s black butler, and the child is Noah’s baby.Percival ends up shooting and killing both Noah and the newborn. It is also decided that Percival will sell Amari, Polly, and Tidbit (as punishment to Teenie) for trying to keep the truth from him. However, on the road to town with Dr. Hoskins, the doctor lets them free as he doesn’t believe in slavery. With the advice from Cato (an experienced slave on Derbyshire Farms) the runaways take to heading south via the forest at night. Their journey is weeks long, and they face serious dangers: starvation, re-capture by Clay or being turned in by others. They are also helped by two people on their way. Fort Mose (the Spanish territory in the south) is their destination: it means freedom for slaves as it is not under English colonial rule. Finally, they arrive there safely and are given immediate refuge. Amari and Polly both have skills to contribute to their new community, and Amari has agreed to be Tidbit’s new mother.

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Chapters 1-3