Summary and Analysis Project

By: Sara Knight

A portrait of Frances Butler as a young women.

The True Feelings of Frances Butler

Summary of Interlude III :

Interlude 3 is told from Frances Butler point of view in the future. This interlude starts off with Frances reflecting back on the morning when Emma (one of the slaves) is comforting Sarah (France's sister). Frances feels as though she also needs the attention of Emma due to the fact that France and Sarah’s dad (Mr. Butler) has a vigorous addiction to gambling. Frances is faced with an internal struggle on how she can live up to her dad’s expectations of being who her father wants her to be and be everything to her father that her mother hadn’t.

After the auction Frances, her sister, and her dad move to Philadelphia. Frances and her sister attend school there. Mr. Butler stopped gambling after the auction but slowly resumed gambling, although soon after Mr. Butler died losing family heirloom and silverware to pay off debt. Frances along with her sister got married. After getting married and the war ending, Frances returned to the Butler Plantation in hopes of restoring the plantation. But Frances realized that if slaves were hard to manage before, then the slaves would be impossible to manage after the war that set them free. Frances says that it would have been easier to handle the slaves if it weren’t for her two former slaves George and Rebecca.

Once more, Frances reflects back to the morning when Emma is comforting Sarah. Frances says she feels as though she had never needed anyone more than she needed Emma on that morning. So Frances went over to the rocking chair and sat with Emma and her sister. Frances, Emma, and Sarah sat there together as the rain outside came pouring down . But finally Mr. Butler called the girls down to leave and Frances said she feels as though she could cry.

                                                    Analysis of Interlude III :

When one examines Interlude III, “Frances Butler as an old woman” in Julius Lester’s Day of Tears, one can see through the feminist lens that the idea of strength on the Butler Plantation had very little to do with physical attributes. Through the feminist lens, one tends to focus on how the characters in the story are portrayed using common gender stereotypes. For example, Mr. Butler owns the plantation. Therefore he is portrayed as independent, in a position of authority over everyone on the plantation. He’s also a gambler; a risk taker. These are typical male stereotypes. In contrast, his daughters Frances and Sarah are portrayed as needy, competing for their slave, Emma’s attention. Frances also worries about living up to her father’s expectations. A feminist would view the two sisters relying on Emma for strength and their obedience to their father as typical female stereotypes.

One can use these male and female stereotypes from Interlude III to answer the question, “How are the relationships between men and women portrayed?” For instance, as Frances reflects back on her life, she thinks about why her mother left her father. The mother was against slavery. She could not tolerate living with a man who kept slaves. So through the feminist lens, the mother rebelled against the female stereotype that wives must always be submissive to their husbands. This example also answers the question of whether any of the other characters mentioned in Interlude III showed traits of the opposite gender. Unlike her mother, Frances believed in slavery and wanted to own her own plantation. So after her father died, Frances married a minister and they returned to Butler Plantation. While the author doesn't give the minister’s view on slavery, he went along with France’s decision to return. One could say that, through the feminist lens, the husband was submissive to his wife’s wishes.

Turning to the overall plot, the main character in the story, Emma, the female slave, is the best example for proving what was started in the opening paragraph; that the idea of strength on the Butler Plantation had very little to do with physical attributes.  Frances described her in "Interlude III", as a physically small person. But the strength of her character and her courage, made Emma larger than anyone. She showed kindness and compassion to her slave owner's daughter. She survived being sold like an animal. She risked her life escaping with Joe across the Ohio River and finally to freedom in Canada. As not only a women but a slave, she risked more than anyone to gain her freedom. From the feminist view point, Emma not only overcame a gender inequality but the worst stereotype of all- inequality as a person. Her strength was her spirit of independence.   

Viewing Day of Tears through the feminist lens, the reader should understand that stereotypes, whether they're racial, ethnic, or gender, can be overcome by individuals who have the inner strength and spirit to refuse to let others define who they are. More than that, the reader should understand that the spirit of freedom is in every person and it is that spirit that will overcome all stereotypes.                                           

This is the plantation that Frances dreamed of running as a child.

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