Summary and Analysis Project

By: Mike Baglivo

An old woman and former slave.

Interlude I "Rising to the Top"

The story is now in the future and Emma is sharing her thoughts. She recalls the slave auction from when she was a little girl. She talks about how loud the rain was that day. Emma then says how she’s never seen rain like that since that day. Granny Wilma confirms Emma’s statement.

Emma then goes on to talk about how all her children and grandchildren got their education. Her granddaughter, Jessie Mae, can read, write, and do numbers. She also said that one time her oldest daughter, Sarah, said that a picture was worth a thousand words. Emma said that whoever wrote that didn’t know very much.

Emma thought that wasn’t true at all. If you could’ve looked at a picture of the slave auction, you would think everything is fine. Which was a lie because it wasn’t all fine that day. She said that you’d never know how their skin was covered with sweat similar to grease that had been repeatedly used to fry chicken in. Also, she said that you’d see her and Mama in that picture and they would look like they were not feeling a thing.

A War Over Slavery

Interlude II "Falling to the Bottom"

The story is in the future now and George Weems, the slave seller, is talking about the slave auction. He recalls it being very hot in the barn and many people were crammed inside. He explains how sweat poured off everybody like grease off a hog at a pig roast. Weems then describes how he needed to yell to be heard over the roaring rain.

George Weems thought that the auction was going to make him famous throughout the south. This did not happen because the price of cotton dropped drastically. Plantation owners started selling all of their slaves, but with everyone sellin, no one was in the position to buy.

Weems then says how his voice never fully recovered after the slave auction. It was no louder than a whisper. Without a voice, he was forced to go back to Arkansas to work on the little farm that his brother and he inherited from their parents.

In eighteen sixty-one, he joined the confederate side of the Civil War. However, he was shot in the leg during his first battle at Vicksburg. He had been shot in the leg and gangrene set in. Weems was once again forced to come back to the farm. With no voice or leg, he never married. With nothing else to accept him, he joined the Ku Klux Klan because they didn’t care that he only had one leg. He could never go out with them to set fire to houses, but he says how he enjoyed hearing stories scaring negros.

Symbols of Slavery

Reader s viewing Interlude 1, “Emma as an Old Woman,” and Interlude 2, “Slave seller as an Old Man” through the formalist lens would find that Julius Lester uses symbols and other figurative language to help the reader relate as directly as possible to the novel.

In Interlude I and II, Lester uses irony to better express how Emma and the slave seller turn out when they’re old. Emma had a good heart so she grew up to live a happy life. The slave seller, on the other hand, was a terrible person, and he lived an even worse life. George Weems said that he lost his voice from the auction, his leg in the Civil War, never married, and was forced into a life of solitude working on his brother’s farm (31-32). Lester shows that if you’re a good person at heart, then you will end up in a good situation and if you’re a bad person, then you’ll end up in a bad situation.

In the whole novel itself, Day of Tears, Julius Lester uses major symbols so you can better understand what’s going on in the story. For example, the rain during the slave auction symbolizes the sadness of all the slaves being sold that day. The rain could also represent the tears of each slave that day. It could symbolize many things, but overall, the rain symbolizes sadness.

Readers examining Day of Tears through the formalist lens could look for the use of irony and symbols to better understand the story. Using different types of figurative languages definitely help the reader better understand the novel. They bring a stronger meaning to the story overall. Would the story have the same effect on you if there was no figurative language used?

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