Summary and Analysis Project
By: Azaan Khan
Character's Controversy with Society's Standards
In the novel, Day of Tears (DOT) by Julius Lester there are many universal themes. Some of them are having a good heart when you see someone suffer, the thirst for freedom and the controversy between a few hopeful individuals and society's cruel standards. I shall be looking at one of the more subliminal themes in the novel which is the controversy between some of the characters in the book and society's cruel standards. shall be looking at this theme through the historical lens.
In the novel DOT there are plenty of examples which clearly show the theme of the controversy between some characters in the story and society's standards. Julius Lester creates a sort of analogy with the characters throughout the novel. Those characters being Sarah Butler and Francis Butler both daughters of Pierce Butler. In the novel Sarah is anti-slavery representing the other characters and members of society who are against slavery while Francis is pro-slavery wanting to own a plantation when older. Sarah is often scolded and is even beaten in one part of the novel by her father for her kind actions towards slaves, such as being emotionally attached to Emma. Pierce Butler represents the punishment for the anti-slavery people and characters in the novel. Francis though is better treated by her father because she agrees with his views just as how society back then would treat another person who believed in slavery. Characters such as Mr. Henry also help slaves. Such as in chapter 8, "The Henfield Plantation" Mr. Henry gives Joe the idea to run away and be a free man he gives Joe details about running away. In chapter 8 he says, "I don't know if you know it but this town ain't far from the Ohio River. On this side of the river there are slaves but on the other side there ain't no slaves, and I know some people over there people who help slaves on this side get across the river to where they don't have to be slaves no more." Mr. Henry is giving Joe which back then was illegal information on how to be free putting not only Joe, but himself at risk.
In the novel overall there are many examples of people being selfless and try to rise above society's standards. From the very beginning to the novel to the very end there are signs of people hating slavery and wanting to make everyone free. Such as Sarah Butler defying her father and crying for Emma, to when Joe finally got his freedom and went back to fight in the civil war for slaves to be free. Yet another example of characters in the book defying society's standard is Geoffrey, a slave who was separated from his lover Dorcus during Pierce Butler's slave auction. Geoffrey ran away time and time again from his master because he didn't believe in the right to own someone as if they were property. He ran time and time again for his freedom and for love.
In conclusion, the theme of characters defying society's standards and rules is more of a subliminal theme that readers do not really notice, but it is also one of the most powerful themes in the novel. Julius Lester so very ingeniously included this theme to the book. This theme shows that we notice the characters fighting for what they believe in but we really don't take that much thought into it. We believe that that's what anyone of the readers would've done if we were there back then but it's not true. Julius Lester actually might have used us as an analogy for the theme. We don't really recognize this theme that much just like how people who agree with society's standards don't bother to recognize those who defy them. We are rather distracted with other things in the novel we find more important such as the slave auction, deaths of characters, and the slaves running away. Just like society nowadays don't tend to recognize women's rights movements, gay right movements, and other things. Why do we not notice these that often, because we are distracted with wars, politics and propaganda. On of the best themes Julius Lester used was by far this one.
Summaries of Chapters 3 and 12
In chapter 3 Emma, Sarah Butler, and Francis Butler are all in a room together. The chapter begins with Francis ordering Emma to brush her hair for a second time to which Emma is shocked by this. Emma then notices Sarah crying to which she then goes to her side to try and comfort her. Sarah takes her over to a rocking chair in the corner of the room where we learn that Sarah's mother used to sit in the chair and read to them. Sarah sits on Emma's lap and Sarah is describing her loneliness and how Emma is the only one who understands her. The chapter ends with Francis yelling at Emma to brush her hair to which Emma refuses because Sarah needs her.
In chapter 12 a year has passed since Joe and Emma crossed the Ohio river. Emma describes how different it is on the other side of the Ohio River. Such as how no one wants blacks to refer to the whites as Master or Mistress, but rather Mister or Missus. Emma describes how everyone on the other side has two names, she picks her second name after Mr.Henry. Emma and Joe have their own house to which they pay rent for. Emma does laundry for different white people while Joe works for a blacksmith. Emma states how Whiney blames Charles for their baby's death and Charles blames Joe for persuading him to be free. Joe states how he doesn't enjoy the city life as much as Emma, but he doesn't take it for granted.
In the middle of the chapter Emma notices a lady to which she brings to Joe's attention. She calls her Fanny Kemble a character whom we've never heard of thus far in the book. Emma approaches the woman to which the woman then recognizes Emma, and then Joe as he approaches. Fanny states how it isn't safe for them to be seen together and leads the two to a much quitter side street to which she demands to know why they are in Philadelphia. Emma tells Fanny Kemble their story and how they escaped. Upon this news Fanny Kemble tells Joe and Emma how they are in danger due to the fact that Pierce Butler is in Philadelphia and how he can drag them back into slavery due to the Fugitive Slave Law ( a law that states that any runaway slave can be put back into slavery, free or not). Fanny Kemble then offers Joe and Emma to escape to Canada for complete freedom. Towards the end of the chapter we learn that Fanny Kemble is the mother of Sarah and Francis Butler, which makes her the ex-wife of Pierce Butler.