Summary and Analysis Project

by: Kelsie Hartman

The image above represents the sight Emma sees at Pierce Butler's slave auction.

Chapter 5: The Slave Auction

      Chapter 5 of Day of Tears begins with Emma sitting in the coach feeling nervous about going to the slave auction. Emma sits next to Sarah and Frances in the coach. Emma comforts Sarah by tightly gripping her hand.

     They arrive at the barn where the slave auction is held. Emma is overwhelmed by the size of the barn and the amount of people there. She observes the stables meant for horses that the slaves being sold are crowded in, the platform the slave-seller will sell from, and the nicely dressed white men and women who stand speaking amongst themselves. Emma searches the crowd and notices Master butler introducing himself and his daughter, Frances, to different groups of slave-buyers.

   Sarah notices the heat in the room from the crowd and the stench she is smelling is of hay, horses, and sweat. She feels that everyone is acting as if they are at a Christmas ball, including Frances who is curtsying and smiling like a princess. Sarah brings Emma to the other end of the barn wishing to be absent from the auction.

     Some slaves are speaking to one another in the stable about different masters. They point out a slave-buyer who has a sour look on his face that indicates he is tough on slaves and all hope no one is bought by him. A slave points out a master who looks as if he is a pleasant person and calls or his attention. The slave-buyer walks over to the slave, Bob, and his wife, Mary. Bob points out their strengths and the slave-buyer is interested in them, particularly because they showed initiative by taking control of their futures. The slave-buyer states that they would fit in well at his plantation.

     The slave-seller, George Weems, speaks to a woman, Mistress Henfield, about the type of slave she is interested in purchasing. Mistress Henfield states that she needs someone to care for her young daugher, but that no such slave is being sold. George Weems shows her Emma and tells her that she takes care of Butler's two daughters and Mistress Henfield agrees that she fits the role. Weems tells her he would speak to Master Butler about selling Emma to Mistress Henfield.

    Emma observes the slaves in the stalls and notices most of them look as if they are mentally preparing themselves for what lies ahead and some simply look angry. She sees Aunt Hagar, who is a strong fighter and frightened her masters, and thinks whoever buys her will regret buying her. She sees another familiar face, Joe, who works in the fields. Emma admits that Joe may have been sweet on her, but will never find out whether that is true o not.

      George Weems introduces himself and Master Butler. Afterward, he begins to auction slaves. The first selling is a family of four: George, Sue, George, and Harry. In the end, the family is sold for two thousand four hundred dollars to Mr. Powell.

The image above represents characters becoming evil because they became rich.

Analysis: The More Money You Have The More Greedy You Are

     A theme is a statement about these topics that a novel seems to portray through its characters, plot, settings, and figurative language. When a reader analyzes the beginning passages of "chapter five" in Julius Lester's novel, Day of Tears, the reader notices a strong theme. The strongest theme in the novel is money is the root of all evil and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Three people who prove the theme above are Master Butler, George Weems, and Mistress Henfield.

       In Day of Tears, Master Butler is a slave master with a gambling debt. Butler has to pay off the debt he has accumulated and hosts the largest slave auction in history. In "chapter five" Master Butler is at his auction attempting to sell slaves to make money for his debt. If Master Butler had not wasted his money gambling, then he would not be desperate for money. When Butler needed money, his solution was to sell his slaves away from their families and friends. Therefore, Master Butler had become evil once he was in great need of money. George Weems is a slave auctioneer at Master Butler's auction. George Weems plans on becoming the best slave-seller of the time and becoming wealthier than he currently is. In "chapter five", George Weems shows his power over the slaves by treating them as if they are not humans as he sells them. He admits that he does not care about slaves, that he only became an auctioneer to make plenty of money ans punish African-Americans. If Weems had not been greedy, he would not have become a slave-seller and evil. Mistress Henfield is a nicer slave-buyer in Kentucky. Mistress Henfield searches for a girl to care for her young daughter at the slave auction. She speaks with George Weems about trying to convince Butler to sell Emma. He agrees to speak with Butler. If Mistress Henfield did not have money, then she would not be purchasing slaves.

           In Day of Tears, Master Butler proves that money is the root of all evil throughout the entire novel. Master Butler's gambling debt causes him to sell most of his slaves to pay it off. Once all the slaves he was selling were sold, George Weems speaks to him about selling Emma. At first, Butler was apprehensive, then Weems convinced him that he needed the money more than he needed Emma. Butler decides to sell Emma to Mistress Henfield. George Weems proves this theme by selling slaves for his own profit until he loses his voice almost completely. Weems convinces Butler to sell Emma because he wants everyone to see him as the best slave-seller and give him their money. He admits that he is only a slave-seller because it will make him rich. Mistress Henfield proves this theme by purchasing slaves. Mistress Henfield has money and needed people to complete housework, the slaves she has bought. If Mistress Henfield did not have money she could not buy these slaves.

         In conclusion, the main theme of Day of Tears is money is the root of all evil and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This theme is proven best by Master Butler, George Weems, and Mistress Henfield.

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