Summary and Analysis Project

By: Sara Pietropola

This shows a slave getting whipped by the overseer, which is like when Sampson was whipped before he decided to run away from his plantation.

Summary Chapter 9: "Scared of Freedom"

In chapter 9, Charles is lying on his bed with his sleeping wife and baby. Sampson is on the other side of the room lying on his bed. The two of them are awake but neither knows that the other is. Each is pondering with thoughts. In the background there is a faded sound of thunder. Charles’ thoughts are read first by the reader. He expresses how he is scared. Now that he has the chance to be free, Charles does not know what to do. He explains how his papa made being free sound like the worst possibility there is. “Freedom does not mean anything but worry” is what Sampson always said to his son. Charles agrees to an extent but states that he thinks that worry is not the only thing to being free. He feels his heart would feel a lot better if Mistress Henfield did not own him like horses in a barn. Not knowing what is worse- staying and being owned by Mistress Henfield, or going with Joe and Emma to try to cross the river with no path ahead was what Charles was afraid of. Charles is ashamed of himself and says he has some of his papa in him. He reveals that he acts a lot braver than he really is, but deep down, he likes not having to worry about all the responsibilities he would have to worry about if he was free. Charles then states how that is the reason why he should leave. “A real man does not live his life letting somebody else take care of him like he was their child” Charles declared to himself. If charles stays at the plantation afraid he is not going to end up any better than his old man and he does not want his daughter to look at him like he did his father. It is better to Charles if he tries to get to freedom than to stay there. Fear was the only thing in his way.

Sampson then shares his thoughts with the readers. When Sampson was Charles’ age, he was a different person. No one hated slavery more than him. He lived in Alabama where slavery was the worst. Death was the only thing that would give slaves peace. The overseer would put the lash on you if you were thinking something he did not want you to think. He put the lash on Sampson when he was working in the fields. Sampson wanted to kill the overseer with his bare hands and he knew that if he ever saw the overseer again, he would have killed him so he ran away. Sampson overheard one old slave say that you could be free if you followed the North Star, so that is what Sampson did. Instead, he ended up walking in circles. He was tired, hungry, and he needed water. Sampson had enough and gave up. The overseer saw him and tied him to a tree when he got whipped. Master Henfield spotted him tied to the tree and took him to his plantation and he has been there since.  

Charles just does not understand that you can live better in slavery than you can when you are free, when you know how to treat the white folks, Sampson explains. Sampson says that if you act stupid and be good to them, in return they are good to you. He knows that he owns Mistress Henfield instead of the opposite way around. Charles does not understand that and Sampson will not tell him that because Charles will ruin everything for Sampson. Sampson states that he has worked too long and hard to let his child ruin things for himself.    

This is a picture of a slave crying and it is raining outside which symbolizes the hard times he is going through. This is just like the scene during the slave auction in the book.  

Analysis: Formalist Lens on Day of Tears  

When one views Julius Lester’s novel Day of Tears through a formalist lens, it is clear that one of his strongest intended themes was that he uses symbols and other figurative language to help the reader relate as directly as possible to the story. This is portrayed through foreshadowing, irony, and onomatopoeia in Chapter 9; “Charles and Sampson’s Cabin”.

Looking through a formalist lens, a reader can distinguish when Lester used figurative language and what it means in the story. In chapter 9, foreshadowing, irony, and onomatopoeia were the three most used symbols and figurative languages used. They were used to help the reader relate directly as possible to the story. Foreshadowing was used when Charles stated “she can sell me away from Winnie tomorrow and I couldn’t say a word about it.” Later on in the story, the two of them become free but end up splitting up. Charles and Winnie were  not split up by Mistress Henfield, but they eventually went their own ways. Irony was also used in this chapter. An example of irony was when Sampson throughout the entire novel wanted and needed to be in the white society, but we as readers find out that he was not always this way. When Sampson was Charles’s age, he hated slavery more than any other slave. Sampson overheard another slave whisper that you could be free if you followed the North Star, so that is what Sampson tried to do. It turned out that he just walked in circles and the overseer caught him and tied him to a tree. One day Master Henfield brought him to his home and since that day Sampson has been at the Henfield Plantation. We learn that after this rough patch in Sampson’s life that he pretends to love slavery while acting dumb and he found out that in return, the white folk will do almost anything you want them to do. What is ironic about the whole story is that Sampson declared “Mistress Henfield think she own me, but I’m the one that own her.” Onomatopoeia was used in this chapter as well. “Pow!” was the sound from the whip that the overseer struck on Sampson. This noise emphasizes how hard the whip hit him and as the reader reads it, they should feel the pain that Sampson felt. Lester used foreshadowing, irony and onomatopoeia to help the reader relate as directly as possible to the story.

Throughout the story, Julius Lester used figurative language to help prove the theme. Looking at the text through a formalist lens, you as the reader can pick out the figurative language easier and it will help you to relate to the story. Besides in Chapter 9: Charles and Sampson’s Cabin, irony and symbols were used. An example of irony was when Fanny Kemble moved to Philadelphia and slavery “followed” her. She divorced Master Butler because she did not like owning slaves. Miss Fanny felt like it was awful and so she moved up north to get away from it all. Many years later it was a shocker that Emma and Joe ran into her on the streets of Philadelphia. She and us as the readers thought that she would never see them again but it appeared that slavery followed her. Not only did Joe and Emma migrated north, but so did Master Butler after he sold his plantation. Fanny Kemble could not get away from slavery, even if she tried! A symbol used a lot in this novel was rain. Rain is symbolic in tons of books and it usually means something bad or sad is going to happen, and in this book, that was true. Whenever it rainedm, slaves were mistreated and you felt their pain and felt sorry for them. A specific example in this novel was at the slave auction. As the auction started, so did the rain, and when more and more slaves were sold, the harder the rain fell. The rain at certain points of the story could have represented just rain, God’s tears, or the slaves’ tears, but if you look at Day of Tears as the whole book, I would say that it was the slave’s tears.

Looking at the novel Day of Tears through a formalist lens, one can view the symbols and other figurative language that Julius Lester used to help relate as directly as possible to the story. Specifically in chapter 9 foreshadowing, irony, and onomatopoeia were used and throughout the entire book many other examples of figurative languages were used.      

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