Summary and Analysis pRoject
by Ella Grande
Chapter 5 (P. 60-74): "God's Tears"
Mr. Weems begins auctioning off the slaves starting with a family of four; George, Sue, and their two kids, George and Harry. He describes them as a fine young family who will bring even more healthy and fit children. Weems man-handles George when he doesn't move fast enough.
The auction begins $750 and grows more and more with every bid. Emma tries to listen but Weems talks so fast she can hardly make out what he is saying, though, she says she knows her numbers well enough to understand the bids. George’s family gets sold to Mr. Powell for $2400.
Mr. Weems brings up the next family; John, Betsey, and their children, Kate and Violet. He describes Betsey as “a little soft in the head” but reassures the bidders that her muscles, not brains, are what is important. The price starts at $500. Emma notices the rain getting louder and louder, making the slave seller have to shout over it. Slave after slave is sold and soon a man named Anson is up next. He has one eye, the other lost in a fight arranged by Butler to determine who the better slave was.
Emma tries to keep track of all the names. She doesn’t know them all but she repeats each name to herself to remember them for the last time. As the auction continues, Emma looks at each face but realizes they all wear the same expression; eyes straight forward, over the crowd.
Emma imagines herself up at the auction being sold. She says she would try not to think. She would want to disappear from everything so she wouldn't have to feel.
Sarah is in the crowd, wishing she could go home. She suspects her sister, Frances, is enjoying the auction. She notices the rain falling harder and wonders if it’s God, angry at her Papa for selling all her friends.
A man named Jeffery is up for sale next. Weems talks about his skilled cotton picking. He starts the bids at $1000. Emma notices him staring deeply at something and follows his gaze to a girl. Emma describes his gaze as something she has never seen before. Mr. Ellington wins the bid and buys him for $1310. Jeffrey explains to his new master that him and the girl, Dorcas, are in love and aspire to be married. He begs Ellington to buy Dorcas and he agrees. After battling back and forth, the money goes out of Ellington’s price range and loses to Mr. Denman. Jeffery is left sobbing in the rain.
Analysis: "The Social Hierarchy"
Examining a story through a marxist lens focuses one's interpretation on money and power, social class, and overall values. A reader can analyze Julius Lester's Day of Tears using a marxist perspective to reveal many themes, however, throughout each characters' struggle it all comes down to one thing: money is the root of all evil and absolute power corrupts absolutely. This idea is exemplified in the last half of Chapter 5: "The Slave Auction".
A characters' place on the Social Class Hierarchy may determine their extent of power, but does not reflect on morals or values. The man with all the power in Chapter 5 is Mr. Weems, the slave-seller. He is in charge of talking up each slave in an appealing way, then setting a starting price. Not only does he set the path for each person, holding their future in his hands, he, in a way, has a power over the buyers. His smooth talking ways entice the buyers to bid more and to convince them that they need that man or woman. As ambitious as he is, where do his morals lie? Selling actual human beings? All the money in the world cannot rationalize his values. On the contrary, Sarah, who is at the very top of all social classes, is dying to leave the auction. She cannot stand to be there which shows she is a good person regardless of how she is supposed to act in society. On the other hand, she suspects her sister, Frances, is completely enjoying herself. Born in the same house with the same lifestyle, they show a totally different sense of morals.
Overall, we see a pattern relating money/power to morals and eventually, determining fate. Looking at this novel with the idea that power plays a huge role in every character's lives allows us to examine the characters and even see who breaks this pattern. Jeffrey, for example, does not follow the "good morals, good ending" pattern. Readers might expect him to get the girl he loves and live happily ever after, but surprisingly, his future is not so bright at all, ending abruptly with his consent. In essence, there's a thin line between money and corruption but good values will impact fate positively, with a few exceptions.