Black and White

Essay by Anonymous UserUniversity, Bachelor'sA+, December 1996

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Black and White

Following the Civil War, just prior to the turn of the century, many American novelist were writing more freely of the previous slave culture. Two of these writers being Mark Twain and Charles Chesnutt. Mark Twain was a popular "white" author by this time. Charles Chesnutt, the son of free blacks, decided to pursue a dream of becoming an author in order to remove the spirit of racism. By studying these authors in particular, the views of a white raised in the slave holding south are juxtaposed with the views of free black. Both Twain and Chesnutt satirize whites in different ways through their literature. Twain also displays some unfavorable preconceptions of blacks. This can be attributed to his own upbringing in the slave holding south.

The main character of the Chesnutt stories is an old Negro man, previously a slave, who engages his new white employers in many tales about life on the plantation.

Uncle Julius relays these stories with much detail. Though, at the conclusion of each, the reader is left wondering whether the tale was true or if Uncle Julius had conceived of it merely to satisfy his own desires. Chesnutt has added to the end of each story an ulterior motive of Uncle Julius that seems to be met by the telling of his tales. By doing this, Chesnutt discretely satirizes whites in general.

In the first story, The Goophered Grapevine, Uncle Julius tells of a conjure woman putting a "goopher" on the grapevines, causing all blacks that eat the grapes to die within one year. This story is relayed upon the first meeting of the northern white couple (John and Annie) and the native South Carolinian. After telling his tale of Henry and the others that suffered from this spell,