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The Goophered Grapevine. Charles Chestnutt - Essay Example

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When W. E. B. Du Bois used the term "double consciousness,"he was talking about a coping method that African Americans use in white society that has little or no respect for them.The term “double consciousness”goes beyond being just a coping method…
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The Goophered Grapevine. Charles Chestnutt
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"The Goophered Grapevine. Charles Chestnutt"

Download file to see previous pages The term defines the way African Americans see themselves as individuals and as a group, but not just through their own eyes. They see themselves through the lens of the Other, the dominant culture. Du Bois says it is "always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity" (Du Bois). This produces what Du Bois calls a "twoness,--an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body” (Du Bois). Understandably, being constantly aware of others’ perception and confounding, exploiting, and denying that view causes conflict within a person. Sometimes action may not be exactly ethical like the actions of the characters in “The Goophered Grapevine.” The conflict within African Americans occurs because the white American disrespected, humiliated, and dehumanized them. “Double consciousness” describes the African Americans’ desire to contribute and participate in all the country has to offer; yet knowing that the wealth denied them was gained by the sweat of the brow of their ancestors. African Americans want to be both black and American, true to their culture and their country. However, even after Emancipation, it took more effort with much less return. Some deterrent is always thrown into the path of African American advancement—segregation, bussing, prejudice, unemployment. Charles Chestnutt’s story illustrates this double consciousness which influences every contact black Americans have outside their own culture. The story’s structure reveals the way the dominant culture views African Americans, narrated by the vineyard owner recounting Uncle Julius’s story. The vineyard owner shares it with the world seemingly without Uncle Julius’ permission. Of course, Uncle Julius asked the indulgence (read: permission) of the vineyard owner and his wife to share the story with them. “I wouldn' spec' fer you ter b'lieve me 'less you know all 'bout de fac's. But ef you en young miss dere doan' min' lis'n'in' ter a ole nigger run on a minute er two w'ile you er restin', I kin 'splain to yer how it all happen'" (Chestnutt). Uncle Julius prefaces his tale with his doubt that the vineyard owner will believe him, a result of the double consciousness. Uncle Julius expects his tale will be treated with derision and disbelief. Hearing the story, readers wonder why the slaves did not feel threatened enough by Dugal to avoid his vineyard, and the grapes continue to disappear. Apparently the slaves do not fall into Dugal’s traps. They know he cannot do much to them because if he punishes them too severely, the slaves may not work hard to harvest his grapes. Not only that, since they are the ones who do the work to make the grapes profitable, surely a few grapes are their due. This way the double consciousness serves them well. But it also backfires because Dugal knows what frightens them: the slaves believe the grapes are hexed. Dugal pays Aunt Peggy to hex them even though he does not believe they are truly bewitched. Otherwise, Dugal would not sell the scuppernong grapes and cause the death of anybody who ate them. He would be allowing people to die and killing off his own customers. Dugal’s purpose in “goophering” the grapes was that he knew the slaves believed in the conjuring. If they believed that the grapes were cursed, they would not eat them. The spell worked except for Henry who ate them without knowing of Aunt Peggy’s spell, which actually turned out fortunate for Dugal. Dugal thinks he is clever. The $10 he paid Aunt Peggy was a wise investment, especially since it provides income ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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