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chesnutt secondary 3 - CHAPTER 4 “Those folks downstairs...

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Unformatted text preview: CHAPTER 4 “Those folks downstairs believe in ghosts”: The Eradication of Folklore in the Novels of Charles W Chesnutt Wiley Cay/7 The cover of the first edition of Charles 'W. Chesnutt's The Conjure Woman (l899) features a picture of the book’s main character, Uncle Julius MacAdoo. beset on both sides by a white. floppy-cared rabbit. Considering Julius' wit, coupled with his ability to mask his chicanery in plantation lore, it is no surprise that the African trickster figure of the rabbit was chosen to accompany Julius on the cover of Chesnutt’s first book-length publication. In his essay “Post-Bellum — Pre-Harlem” (1931) Chesnutt does not explicitly align Uncle Julius with the trickster figure and even glosses over the significance of the juxtaposition ofjulius and the rabbit. He simply recounts that the book “was bound in brown cloth and on the front was a picture of a white—haired old Negro. flanked on either side by a long—cared rabbit” (“Post- Bellum,” 101). Concerning Uncle Julius’s manipulation of the paternalistic and often overly sentimental white couple in the book, Chesnutt states that Julius merely “had an axe to grind” (“Posr-Bellum.” 100). In reading his early journal entries, it is apparent that Chesnutt himself had a very real axe to grind with white America and would do so behind the heft of his pen throughout the course of his street. According to his famous “high, holy purpose” in which his goal “would be not so much the elevation of the colored people as the elevation of the whites," Chesnutt, like Uncle Julius, wished to enchant America's white read- ership by entertaining them with the palatable and much loved plantation lore of the kindhearted slave while simultaneously chipping away at the very 69 mil U" ...
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