In both Unmentionables and All to Pieces, Jimmy endeavors to find a way to escape from slavery. Escape from slavery was enormously improbable and nearly impossible. The risks included severe punishment and even death. To attempt escape took tremendous courage.
I've never had any doubt about Jimmy's courage. In Unmentionables, he was willing to give up what he loved most for the sake of that love. He's baffled beyond measure by the cruelty he sees in other men and by the circumstances of his life. But he's determined to transcend his circumstances, both through resistance and through extraordinary, if at times begrudging, compassion.
This, to me, is why Jimmy's life cannot be viewed solely with pity. Nor should readers condescend to judge any enslaved person as entirely wretched. There is enormous variation in the difficulty of the circumstances that we humans are born into. But I believe our lives are best judged by how we behave within those circumstances rather than by the degree of rectitude inherent in the circumstances themselves. Because of the horror of slavery it is tempting to regard all those within its grasp as abject victims. But to do that is to overlook the ways that some of those trapped in the institution lived lives of the highest spiritual achievement.