Editor's Commentary to "How Mr. Rabbit was Too Sharp For Mr. Fox"


"How Mr. Rabbit Was Too Sharp For Mr. Fox" follows from "The Wonderful Tar-Baby Story" with Brer Rabbit trapped in the sticky substance of the Tar-Baby. With Brer Rabbit trapped, Brer Fox recounts the history of his affronts to the animal community. He recalls Brer Rabbit's impertinence, proud nature, and meddling curiosity:

"You bin runnin' roun' here sassin' atter me a mighty long time,
but I speck you done come ter de een' er de row. You bin cuttin' up
yo' capers en bouncin' 'roun' in dis naberhood ontwel you come ter
b'lieve yo'se'f de boss er de whole gang. "

This passage identifies the fundamental dynamic of Brer Fox's relationship with Brer Rabbit--a struggle for dominance and subordination. Although Harris insisted that his documentation of these plantation narratives was solely for the purpose of preserving this tradition of the Old South for future generations, there is an element of social commentary in the tales themselves. The struggle for dominance in the animal kingdom neatly parallels the struggle for social superiority in the antebellum and Reconstruction-era South. During the antebellum period, slaves might have told a version of this tale in order to document their domination and subordination by whites through the institution of slavery. In the Reconstruction era, when Harris was compiling the tales, the story also had resonance in showing the social instability of a society that could no longer rely on the institution of slavery to maintain social boundaries. Regardless of whether Harris had either of these interpretations in mind when he


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