Summary and Analysis Project
By Lyndsey Sawyer
The Bible represents the connection between the crossing of the Ohio River and the Jordan, both in search of freedom.
Chapter 11: Trying to Keep Hope
Chapter eleven starts out with Charles doubting the white man. He feels that Mr. Henry lied to them, because they couldn’t hear an owl in the pouring rain. Charles’ doubts caused him to want to go back to the plantation before the mistress finds out they left. Joe pointed out that they had to keep going because Papa would tell the mistress. Charles blames Joe for their ordeal, but Joe defends himself by saying “Don’t try to blame me. Nothing but your own two legs brought you here.”
Emma admits they are all scared, and that is why Charles and Joe were fighting. The gang suddenly sees a mysterious light and thinks its a ghost. Joe thinks the light is the patrollers and the group runs into the woods with the baby. The light is Mr. Henry, who takes all of them in his wagon.
Mr. Henry says that there are probably people from Ohio coming to get them, but there is a chance no one will come because of the weather. They hope the river is not running too hard for someone to come and get them. Emma notes Mr. Henry’s haphazardly driving, as the four all hold on to each other. Emma doesn't hear a heartbeat when Winnie realizes something is wrong with her baby. The chapter ends with the four of them hoping they will be able to cross the river that night.
The rain represents the cleansing of the groups' sins.
Analysis: The Cleansing Rains
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 his use of symbols and other figurative language to help the reader relate as directly as possible to the story. This is portrayed through allusions, irony, and similes in chapter 11, “On the Road.”
Chapter 11 has many elements of figurative language. For example, there is a simile when Emma talks about Mr. Henry’s driving by saying “Mr. Henry is driving the wagon like the devil is after him.” The rain in the chapter is a symbol for the washing away of their sins and the start of a new life. Rain is sometimes called the “water of life,” which suits this scene, in a way, giving new life to those who experienced it. There is a Biblical allusion in the group crossing the Ohio River to freedom, referencing the crossing of the Jordan by the Jewish.
In the beginning of the story there is a slave auction and the people say the rain is god’s tears. This shows the peoples’ superstition and serves as a reference to religion. Throughout the story rain is seen as a bad omen, but that is not the case in the end. When the slave auctioneer talks about being the best in the land, he ironically loses his leg and voice, failing his plans. Pierce Butler’s weakness of gambling can be considered a mythological allusion to Achilles. Achilles had one weakness: his heel. Pierce had one weakness as well, creating the connection of a singular weakness between the two.
To Conclude, the symbol of rain is an ongoing symbol during the story that has multiple meanings. There is the use of figurative language that contributes to the overall message of the story. The allusions to the bible and greek mythology help the reader understand the different obstacles the characters have to face in the story. Much thought was put into the connections made between the characters in the book and outside allusions. All of the elements come together to form the base storyline of Day of Tears.