Editor's Commentary of "Uncle Remus Initiates the Little Boy"


This tale functions as an important component of the larger text, Legends of the Old Plantation, in that it introduces the primary characters and establishes the stylistic form of the text. Immediately, the reader is introduced to Uncle Remus, Miss Sally, and the little boy; through the stories of Uncle Remus, we are introduced to the principal animal characters, Brer Rabbit and Brer Fox. One important aspect of the text's narrative style is the limited view that the reader gets of the characters. When we first are introduced to Uncle Remus, we do not see him as a first person narrator, but rather through the eyes of Miss Sally, whom we see through the eyes of an anonymous limited narrator. This is important to the text because it establishes a pattern of limited insight to the minds of the human charcters, while more detail is given to the thoughts of the animal characters. Harris also introduces the conflict of many of the animal tales, the pursuit of Brer Rabbit and his escape through the use of wit and cunning.

The tale also establishes the pattern in which the stories are told--by an elderly former slave to the young grandson of his former master. It is significant the Harris' storyteller be an elderly former slave. In this way, Uncle Remus provides a direct link to a past and culture that is quickly slipping away. For Harris, an advocate of preserving the Southern liteary heritage in the wake of the encroaching industrial expansion of the New South, the decision to commit the oral slave tradition to written form was a self-conscious attempt to solidf and preserve an endangered remnant of the old plantation culture. Moreover, the recording of these tales by Harris through the stories of Uncle Remus was a step toward the diversifcation of Southern literature. During the Reconstruction era, there was little African-American writing in the national level, and still less on the regional and local levels. Thus, the stories of Uncle Remus filled a tremendous void in acknowledging the culture of the African-American slaves, as well as the plantation culture Harris wanted to preserve.


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