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  • Author: Iulia Andreea Milică x
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Iulia Andreea Milică

Abstract

The aim of this essay is to look at Southern racism from a different perspective, namely the subversive influence of the black uncles and mammies, depicted as kind, loyal and caring, in the racial education of the white Southern children. However, these narrators, though meant to comply with the racist requirements of their masters, take control of the stories and, with caution and dissimulation, attempt to educate the children they care for towards a more tolerant outlook on race. The dangers of such an endeavor, especially at the height of segregation and racial violence at the end of the nineteenth century (in the post-Reconstruction South), are evident in the ambiguous critical reception of Joel Chandler Harris’ Uncle Remus stories and Kate Chopin’s writings, the authors chosen for analysis. Oscillating from a belief in their compliance to their age’s prejudices and codes and a trust in their rebellious attitudes, critics and readers reacted to these stories in different, even contradictory manners. Our intention is to demonstrate that the use of the slave narrator is a subversive way of teaching the white child the truth about the plight of slavery and sway him/her into a more empathic attitude towards racial and class difference.

Open access

Iulia Andreea Milică

Abstract

With its history of slavery and racial conflict, war and defeat, segregation and lynching, the South is defined by violence and aggression on a personal and community level. This experience defined Southern identity and shaped its literature to mirror the sense of frustration, guilt and shame bursting from the heart of seemingly peaceful, ordered and decent communities. Though some authors tend to see violence as a necessary transgression that will, eventually, through painful sacrifice, lay the foundation of a renewed world, others regard it as a trap or a vicious circle which does not allow the South to grow out of the illusion of a glorious past and accept present changes. William Faulkner’ short story Dry September and Harper Lee’s novel To Kill a Mockingbird deal with an alleged accusation of rape, the victim being a white woman, and the culprit, a black man. Focusing more on the white community’s attitude and telling the story from limited perspectives, the two texts investigate less the black man’s tragedy, dwelling more on the white people’s reaction and the manner in which white Southern identity and white supremacy are constructed on a foundation of violence and intolerance.