Charles Waddell Chesnutt's Tales Of Conjure And The Color Line

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In Charles Waddell Chesnutt’s Tales of Conjure and the Color Line are multiple short stories in which an inner-framed narrative helps to resolve the conflicts that occur in the outer frames. In these stories, a former slave, Uncle Julius, recounts his experiences working on a plantation in North Carolina to John and Annie, a newly arrived white couple from the North. Through Julius’ stories, John and Annie are able to see into the inner workings of the system of slavery—a world that they had been previously cut off from. One of these stories is “Dave’s Neckliss,” which is Julius’ account of his friend Dave, a slave who is driven to madness because of the punishment he receives for a crime he did not commit. In the beginning frame, John questions …show more content…
Mars Walker, concerned about the damage that wearing the ham has done, releases Dave from it, but the effect of this symbol of bondage lingers and has tragic consequences. Julius says in defense of Dave, as if attuned to John’s insensitivity and inability to understand, “But de ham had be’n on his neck so long dat Dave had sorter got use’ ter it. He look des lack he’d los’ sump’n fer a day er so after de ham wuz took off, en didn’ ‘pear ter know w’at ter do wid hisse’f.” Dave’s sudden freedom confuses him to the point where he struggles with understanding the difference between what people have told him he is, and who he really is. John sees Julius as having a similar “doubt in his own mind.” Julius, however, is able to show that John’s diagnoses and deductions are lacking because he cannot begin to understand, from his position on the hammock, how being treated as less than human can push a man to the point of suicide. When Julius tries to tell Dave, “Yer ain’ wearin no ham no mo’; try en fergit ‘bout dat; ‘t ain’ gwine ter do yer no good fer ter member it,” it is a sad reminder of what Julius has to tell himself as he continues to constantly struggle with his own memories of being a slave—of feeling guilty for a crime that he did not commit, long after the punishment is

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