The entire family is brought down by the slave trade. Clotel, Currer, and Althea are completely separated from each other. Currer later dies of yellow fever while Althea is left to suffer under the ruthless hands of slave traders. Even after being married to Henry Morton, her life is filled with misery. Their two daughters are also auctioned as slaves after the sudden death of the couple. None of the homes or families is spared by slavery. Since it is illegal for white people to engage in mixed-race marriages, Clotel is married to Horatio secretly. However, the secret union eventually breaks the family as her husband legally marries a white lady by the name of Gertrude.
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Brown explores the aspect of race through the ravaging effects of slavery. African-Americans face severe segregation due to their racial background. Mixed-race individuals are sold at will as slaves. Mrs. Green eventually discovers the presence of Clotel and her daughter Mary. Clotel is sold to Dick Walker while her daughter Mary is taken by Mrs. Green to work in her home as a servant. They face all these tribulations merely because they are a mixed-race group.
The author uses a number of female characters who undergo suffering as a result of the slave trade. The main characters include Clotel, Althea, and Currer. As events continue to unfold throughout the book, all of the three characters are auctioned. As much as Horatio Green marries Clotel, her horrifying life as a slave does not change. Dick Walker is also a prominent character in the novel. Both Currer and Althea are left under the ruthless hands of the notorious slave trader. Meanwhile, Clotel receives a temporary reprieve after she gets married to Horatio Green even though she ends up as a slave.